Rich Rodriguez once called an indoor practice facility the No. 1 item on his priority list for Arizona football.
Thursday, the UA head coach got his wish.
The Arizona Board of Regents approved four University of Arizona athletic department facility projects, including the construction of the Indoor Sports Center, described as “a multipurpose facility for each of Arizona's programs to utilize, while also serving as a gameday hospitality area.”
“I’m so grateful,” Rodriguez said Monday. “We’ve been talking about this for several years and the need for an indoor practice facility, and not just for our guys, but for all the athletes. It’s going to be great for the fans.”
The ISC is expected to be located in the corridor between 6th Street and Enke Drive, and should be completed by October 2018.
The project budget is $18 million, and the ISC is expected to have a 90-yard field with a ceiling height of 65 feet.
The facility is currently in the design phase, but Rodriguez also said there might be an area for players who are rehabbing from injuries.
“It’s going to be a nice one,” he said. “It’s going to be one that’s the best in the state.”
UA documents list the brutal Southern Arizona summers as justification for such a structure.
“Excessive heat and violent monsoon storms compromise the ability for practice to occur safely outdoors,” UA documents say. “The months of the greatest heat and storm intensity and frequency and coincidental with football practice.”
The Arizona Wildcats have moved their practices to mornings to avoid practicing in the afternoon heat, and they even once had to practice in Glendale when monsoons muddied their practice field.
“Now it opens us the opportunity to go back to afternoon practices,” Rodriguez said. “And then at times in the summer, it gets really hot. Our guys are here all summer and it gives them an opportunity to work on their game on their own in an air conditioned environment.
“I think that’s huge. We want our guys to do a lot on their own, but realistically in the summer when it’s 105 degrees, it’s hard to get guys to go out there for an hour and a half.”
Aside from player development, Rodriguez thinks the indoor facility will boost UA’s recruiting efforts, which is sorely needed since the Wildcats typically bring in recruiting classes ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12.
“We’ll try to get some models made and some drawings made so we can show (the recruits),” Rodriguez said. “As much as anything else, it will help with the development of our student-athletes, but it also shows there’s a commitment to football and helping our guys get better.
“We were able to use this facility (Lowell-Stevens) when it was built to really help us with recruiting,” he added. “It really gave us a boost and I think we’ll be able to do the same with the indoor coming.”
In fact, Rodriguez has already used the indoor facility as a recruiting tool. Only before, he was pitching a vision. Now it’s reality.
“We told them we thought it was coming, but we couldn’t tell them for sure that it was,” Rodriguez said. “Now, as soon as it’s been approved, we’re using it quite a bit. ... It will be a big selling point for us.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire