USC Unveils The $70-Million, 110,000-Square-Foot John McKay Center
The University of Southern California’s brand new $70-million, 110,000-square-foot athletic facility was unveiled to the media Sunday afternoon, and the John McKay Center certainly did not disappoint as associate senior athletic director Mark Jackson led the extensive tour.
Located directly west of Heritage Hall, the new building is a secured facility strictly designed for the use of student-athletes and USC athletics personnel. Each student-athlete has been finger- and thumb-printed, so that the front computer will recognize his/her hand and grant access to the facility.
Upon entry, one is immediately greeted by beautiful pictures of USC’s student-athletes posing together on Malibu’s picturesque El Matador Beach. Star quarterback Matt Barkley is shown, but so are 20 other USC student-athletes, each representing a different USC team. Although football undoubtedly reigns supreme at USC, Jackson emphasized that the facility was designed for all of the teams to enjoy and is most certainly “not a football building.” Well, not strictly football anyway. The pictures simultaneously represent the diversity of backgrounds and sports at USC, while also reminding current students and prospective recruits of the benefits of attending school in Southern California.
Throughout the building, there is ample glass. The glass promotes transparency, according to Jackson, who repeatedly emphasized USC’s focus on academics. “We wanted to build a building that would graduate our student-athletes,” said Jackson.
The archway from the practice field to the locker room reads, “Sound body, sound mind” in Greek, and that motto mirrors the dual aspirations USC athletics has for its student-athletes as exemplified in the building’s design. The McKay Center houses the Stevens Academic Center, which boasts all kinds of tools for the students, such as study and computer rooms, places where athletes can receive one-on-one tutoring and even a space for academic advising.
Former Trojan defensive end Willie McGinest spent many productive years as a linebacker in the NFL, but for him, his 1994 degree (public administration) was crucial. On one of the center’s many walls, there is a McGinest quote that reads, “I knew if I had a degree from USC, the sky was the limit.”
McGinest and other former Trojan athletes were featured in one of the recruiting videos that was displayed on the grand, 33-feet X 15-feet video board as the final presentation of the tour. For all the benefits that will come USC’s way as a result of the McKay Center being finished, its effects may be felt most strongly on the recruiting front. “We are going from 30 years behind the times in our facilities to moving 30 years ahead of our competitors,” according to athletic director Pat Haden. Prospective student-athletes can be confident the building is unparalleled anywhere else in the country.
Trojan student-athletes will enjoy a wide array of services and amenities. Let’s see…there’s a strength and conditioning field, a weight room with 22 platforms and customized racks, a juice and nutrition bar, a players’ lounge, an auditorium for team meetings, an interactive Nike wall and a rehabilitation space with separate rooms for athletes to get taped, to receive massages and to use the underwater treadmills. The space obviously assists players in rehabbing, but according to Jackson, the services are primarily designed for preventative measures as opposed to treatment as USC hopes to teach its athletes the right way to take care of their bodies. In the football locker room, each player has been given an iPad with the dual purpose of serving as a playbook and academic communications device.
The center is bold and some may even say extravagant, but school officials contend that the school’s unparalleled athletic success makes the venture more than worth the $70-million expense. Around the arch above the main entrance, a sign reads: “Through this portal enter the world’s greatest athletes.” And through most of the tour, USC convincingly proved just that. Whether it was the section dedicated to USC Olympians, the wall honoring each of the 532 NFL draft picks, the area documenting the school’s national television presence or even one of the many plaques celebrating legendary Trojans (John McKay and Pete Carroll, to name a few), the school’s rich history was on full display.
With the official opening of the John McKay Center, it is fitting that USC athletics announced a $300-million fundraising initiative the same day. Furthermore, a renovation of Heritage Hall is scheduled from January 2013 to January '14. The ultimate goal is for the two buildings to seamlessly lead into each other. Although the McKay Center is a secured facility for student-athletes, it will ultimately be opened to the community for tours at a later date that has yet to be determined.