by Rob Moseley
When they're not on campus attending class, Oregon football players figure to spend a major chunk of their time at the athletic department's new Football Performance Center, which became operational this week.
The good news for the Ducks, then, is that it looks like a place one might never want to leave. Functional in every way and packed with amenities, the Football Performance Center is drawing rave reviews from the coaches already using it, with players set to report for preseason camp this week.
"I'm just in awe of it," UO running backs coach Gary Campbell said. "It's a beautiful building, a great facility.
"I said, 'somebody really had to sit down and think about this, to put a facility like this together.' I'd never seen anything like it."
The task of doing just that fell in part to Gene Sandoval, a design partner with ZGF Architects LLP. Having worked also on Oregon's Athletic Treatment Center and the Jaqua Academic Center, Sandoval completed a sort of architectural triptych with the Football Performance Center.
"We could have done anything, but this building speaks about the future," Sandoval said. "This is a modern building that could be in any of the most innovative cities in Europe. This is forward-thinking."
Aesthetically, the building is most striking in two different ways. There's the exterior skin of textured black glass, and the dramatic "Jenga" design of the facility, with boxes stacked on top of boxes, and cantilevered wings perched precariously on top of … well, nothing.
"It was really about, how can you embody in a three-dimensional form this notion of a team," Sandoval said. "So the concept was, we wanted to stack program elements — whether it was the weight room or the office wing — they're all stacked together as independent masses, representing that football takes all these different components and puts them together, and they have to work together as a team for it to work."
The two-story weight room overlooks the facility's three new practice fields. Stacked on top of the weight room are three stories of offices for coaches and support staff, though in an uneven arrangement that leaves one wing of offices hanging out in thin air.
A two-story skybridge connects the office wing — which also houses the player lounge — with the "teaching box," and its array of meeting space. The teaching box also contains locker rooms for the players and coaches, and a new postgame interview room.
And all of it is housed behind dark black glass.
"That's about stealth," Sandoval said, a design concept he gleaned from meetings with players. "It's about University of Oregon football being this mysterious, high-tech, intimidating program."
Inside, the amenities are first class. One fun feature: As players walk between meeting rooms in the teaching box, there's a large "bottom line" style sports ticker in the hallway.
"If I'm a kid being recruited and I come in and see this, I want to be part of this," Campbell said. "I think it's just going to be an awesome recruiting tool. I know it would be to me."
It's not just kids the Ducks hope to impress with the facility.
"We wanted to build a house for these people," Sandoval said. "We wanted parents leaving their 18-year-old kids and knowing we are the stewards of success for these kids. That's what this building represents, and hopefully what we were able to do. …
"With Oregon sports and Oregon football we really focused on the athletes first. We started with the treatment center, to heal them, make them stronger and faster. Second, (with the Jaqua center) we want to keep them in school and make sure they succeed professionally even if it's outside sports. Now we want to focus on how we can make football, as a sport and as an operation, be successful. That's the secret of the Football Performance Center."