The athletics department opened a brand new, $1 million Olympic sports training center over the summer dedicated solely for the Hokies’ Olympic sports, thanks to a donation from the family of W.A. and Mae Street, originally from Grundy, Va.
The Olympic Sports Athletic Performance Center features more than 6,000 square feet filled with weights, barbells, weight racks and other assorted equipment designed to help one get stronger, bigger and faster. The new center also features an 1,800 square-foot mezzanine level designed with equipment to help enhance the functional movement of Tech’s athletes and thus prevent injuries.
“This is something that’s going to benefit so many people,” said Tom Gabbard, Tech’s associate AD for internal affairs. “You have to give credit to Mike Gentry [Tech’s associate AD for athletic performance], Terry Mitchell [a director of strength and conditioning] and Megan Evans [a strength and conditioning coordinator]. Jim [Weaver, Tech’s AD] has always believed in letting the users tell the architects how they want a facility planned, and all those guys did a great job of making this project come together.”
Southland Construction won the bid for the job and basically gutted an old practice gym, installing a new air conditioning system, new lighting, new windows on both sides and new offices, while also building the mezzanine level for the functional movement area.
“Now, we can accommodate more athletes,” Mitchell said. “We were in a place where we could fit 23 [athletes] comfortably, and when we designed it [the new performance center], we wanted to allow for double that number.
“So I really think the quality of our training is going to improve because we’ve got more space and more equipment. It’s safer and user friendly,” Mitchell said.
The center includes unique equipment such as three “Pit Sharks,” or machines designed for people who cannot squat with a barbell, and two “towers” that allow for working one’s back muscles. Tech’s strength and conditioning staff also will have five “tsunami” barbells at its disposal, becoming the first school to use this piece of equipment. This barbell is made of special composite materials that make it flexible, and thus, it activates muscles at a 20 percent greater rate.
The mezzanine level serves as the home for the functional movement screening area. Tech’s strength and conditioning staff plans on screening athletes on various movements, and the results of the screening will let the staff know if an athlete is predisposed to specific types of injuries. If so, then he or she can work on any of the three “Freedom Trainers” – machines that can put athletes in a position to work on any deficiencies in movements to prevent injuries.
“We’ve really got some cutting edge technology,” Gentry said. “We can find out an athlete’s needs and work with him or her.”
The new center also includes a sound system, two large flatscreen televisions and a small area for a camera. The video staff uses this equipment to show the proper technique for various lifts and also for when it holds strength and conditioning clinics.
Outside the main entrance, there is a large, flatscreen television used to display the training schedules for each of the various sports.
The Olympic sport coaches like the new center because of its location. The baseball and softball coaches’ offices are directly across the hall, while the track and field, swimming and diving, soccer and volleyball coaches’ offices are just one floor above.
All in all, everyone has won out with this project.
“The best thing about this is that it’s just for Olympic sports with their name on it,” Mitchell added. “It’s not a hand-me down. It’s designed for them, and hopefully it’ll motivate them and their passion for their sports.”