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Arizona’s new indoor football facility an ‘important piece to the puzzle’

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In the modern college landscape where facilities are currency, Arizona FINALLY joins the big boys.

arizona-football-indoor-facility-photos-video-wildcats-cole-jeannie-davis-sports-center Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Arizona Wildcats athletic director Dave Heeke welcomed all media members to the new Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center on Sunday night, walking through all of the amenities and bells and whistles. Like a proud father showing off his son’s accomplishments, Heeke was brimming with pride.

“This is an important piece of the puzzle,” Heeke said. “When you talk about investment in facilities, investment in programs ... it shows that we are committed in a major way to this football program, and we want it to be successful.”

Dave Heeke talks about the opening of the new Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, February 24, 2019

Heeke went on to mention how the football team had to cancel or postpone close to 10 practices last fall due to monsoon storms and the lightning that comes with them, leaving new coach Kevin Sumlin often scrambling to reschedule and adjust on the fly.

“That’s what our coaches want,” said Heeke as he stood proudly on the new artificial grass near midfield. “To give us the tools so that we can compete in a really challenging league, and a challenging landscape that is college football.”

Arizona AD Dave Heeke running through the details about the new indoor facility.

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, February 24, 2019

This indoor facility has been a long time coming, and it’s a shame that Arizona didn’t look into this earlier in the decade. This is not Heeke’s fault whatsoever, and if anything, Heeke should be commended on the steadfast work he has done since he has stepped on campus to not only build the football facility, but also upgrade Rita Hillenbrand Stadium and the Aquatics Center as well.

The 74,000-square foot indoor facility will be used by all 21 athletic teams Arizona has, as well as tailgate events on football and basketball game days. The huge structure, which will mainly be used to escape the brutal summer heat, is a multi-dimensional facility that looks to change Arizona Athletics for the better.

Arizona was in dire need of an upgrade to many different facilities, and was in serious risk of being left behind by other Pac-12 athletic programs if this wasn’t done in the next couple of years.

In a conference with the likes of Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington all sporting state-of the-art athletic facilities, it allows Arizona a chance to one day compete at the top end of the conference by being able to cater to higher-end football recruits.

The lack of indoor facilities often left Arizona out of the conversation when top prospects, especially in-state ones, got offers from those schools named above. They understandably opted to spend their three or four years at a school that has the newest buildings and facilities, which also happened to be located in flashy metro areas like Los Angeles or Seattle, instead of Tucson.

Now that the new indoor facility is full operational, the sign of intent and ambition that is being shown by the athletic department are laying the foundation to get the most out of Sumlin and his staff. Now he can try to convince local recruits to stay in-state, and not have to practice outside like they are a glorified junior college program.

And with Arizona being a basketball school, investing in the football program has been understandably overlooked. North Carolina just opened its indoor facility, as it also had a hard time splitting resources between a hoops program that is already established and thriving, and a football one that is usually mired in mediocrity and underperformance.

This is a great step for Arizona and the community of Tucson, as it signals for new and better things to come, but this is only a cog in the machine. The metal barn with fake grass is only going to fix so many problems, but at least the problems at hand are getting addressed. It’s about time.

Quick facts

  • Construction cost of $16.5 million
  • Indoor 90-yard field with a 10-yard end zone
  • Support space to the north for weight room, training room and video
  • Approximately 74,000 square feet of interior space with 26,000 square feet of usable exterior patio space
  • Ceiling height of 65 feet in the center, 48 feet on the eaves (enough room to do everything but punting)
  • Climate-controlled
  • Bay door access to two adjacent practice fields

Photos and video

Follow David Skinner on Twitter