LEXINGTON, Ky. – Ricky Lumpkin is heading into his sixth NFL season with his third franchise, and the professional football player was blown away Friday by the college training facility at his alma mater, Kentucky.
“I’m jealous,” the Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman said during a tour of UK’s new $45 million, 100,000-square foot facility. “This is perfect. The guys have no more excuses. Everything over here is what you want. Everything is top-of-the-line. Now, as a player, you gotta look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, man, they gave us what we wanted. Now we gotta repay them for it.’
“It’s better than the (NFL) places I’ve been, from head to toe. When it comes to facilities, this is the best I’ve ever seen.”
That is music to Wildcats recruiting coordinator Dan Berezowitz’s ears. If pros think so, high school prospects will surely agree. They already do. Visiting recruits this summer, who’ve been to other elite programs around the country, say UK’s new facility is up there with the very best.
“That’s what we wanted. We wanted a ‘Wow,’ ” Berezowitz said while giving media a tour of the new facility Friday. “It’s a wow now, and I think it’s going to continue to be a wow. Because if its’ your first time in the building or even your second time in the building, it’s like an amusement park: you can’t see the whole thing the first time. So King’s Island gets you to go back the second time, the third time.”
While it’s the place where Kentucky football will get to work – a 15,000-square foot weight room that’s almost double the size of the old one will help with that – there is a bit of an entertainment feel to the new digs.
Here are a handful of things that jumped out about UK’s Football Training Center (which is still awaiting a big-dollar donor who wants to slap his or her name on it):
* The lobby includes several mannequins showing off the team’s various uniform fashions – plus a very notable new piece of hardware in a glass case: a trophy that looks a lot like the old BCS title hardware, right down to a faux crystal football on top, declaring UK’s 1950 team, which beat No. 1 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl “The National Champion.”
Kentucky has quietly claimed that Sagarin national championship on a page deep in the back of its media guide, but the trophy display is a bold statement that associate AD Marc Hill said is “to recognize what’s been done here in the past, which we haven’t done as great a job of, maybe, like we should have.”
* Also part of the high-impact first impression in the lobby: an interactive Nike display that allows visitors, including recruits, to design a uniform – down to the arm bands, gloves, shoes, visor and color scheme – with their name on the back, and email a copy of the image to themselves. Just off the lobby is an “experience room,” which allows visitors to go through the entire game day experience, from the Cat Walk to running through the stadium tunnel, in a 360-degree simulation.
* The state-of-the-art weight room, which has a wall of glass looking out on two new practice fields, is a major upgrade in both size and quality. There are 20 multi-function weight racks and a second-floor cardio deck. An illuminated outline of the state on a huge blue wall in the back can be seen from the road at night.
UK’s indoor and outdoor fields, its weight room, locker room, players’ lounge, medical treatment area, dining room, academic and tutoring center, team meeting rooms and coaches’ offices are now all in a tightly grouped complex off Alumni drive.
“A lot of people have great facilities like this,” Hill said, “but very few are going to be able to replicate what we have in proximity.”
* While there are no waterfalls, there are so many bells and whistles. The players’ lounge has video games, ping pong, a pool table and shuffle board. Also: a nearby, in-house barber shop. The locker room – in addition to 120 lockers grouped by position, labeled by name and photograph, with electronic locks, ventilation systems, heat and AC – features a huge, illuminated UK logo on the ceiling and 20 55-inch TV screens grouped to make one massive screen on the back wall.
There’s a Gatorade Fuel Bar for unlimited snacks, shakes and drinks. You know, in case the buffet line of food from the full-time executive chef doesn’t fill them up. There’s a 162-seat team meeting room with fancy leather chairs, giant screens and a booming sound system that make it feel like a luxury movie theater.
Oh, and if players or coaches forget their ID cards to get into the facility, all the entrances have retina scanners – like something out of a Sci-Fi movie.
“You think we missed anything?” Berezowitz joked. “These guys didn’t cut any corners. You guys can look online at other places and ask other people, but we’re going to say this is one of the best in the country.”
* Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleTucker_AJC. Reach him at Kyle.Tucker@ajc.com.