New performance center making impact at RU

Photo courtesy of RU Athletics
A new 16,000 square foot strength and conditioning room at Radford University is being heralded as an effort in building for the future of the school’s athletic programs.

Radford Athletics’ strength and conditioning motto is “better yourself to better the team”. Now the Highlander student-athletes have a better place do that.

The new Sports Performance Center is up and running in what was formerly the pool area of the Dedmon Center and the difference between it and the previous weight room is striking, to say the least.

“The first time (student-athletes) came in they were like a kid coming down the stairs and seeing what Santa left for them,” Assistant Athletic Director for Sport Performance Scott Bennett said. “They loved it… and a lot of times the workouts are not easy but to give them something to be excited about and have a little ‘wow’ factor, that’s a great feeling to be able to provide that.”

Start with the most basic comparison of size, with the new facility nearly quadruple the square footage from 4,200 to about 16,000, making it one of the largest performance centers for a school of Radford’s size. That certainly makes for a lot more room for the workout equipment to be spread out so that athletes are no longer on top of each other as they train, and has also allowed for cardio and nautilus machines that were previously in storage to now be used.

However, the most significant upgrade and advantageous use of the increased space is the wide-open turf area that encompasses the other half of the room. It provides an additional training area that can be used for a variety of purposes as an alternative to the Dedmon Center court, the baseball and softball hitting facility, or in case of bad weather, outside. The soccer and lacrosse teams have used it for drills, volleyball has taken advantage of the softer surface for jumping work, basketball as a warm-up area before games, and baseball and softball can use it and the weights at the same time without having to change buildings.

“It’s just given us the ability to do all that we need to do and not have to worry about sharing facilities or transferring facilities. At one time, we were doing agility work with baseball in their hitting facility so we’d have go out there, move the cages back, set it all up and put it all back together and then come back over to Dedmon (for weight training). We’re doing that at 6 in the morning with snow on the ground. We don’t have to do that anymore.”

Indeed, along with making the workouts themselves more efficient, the additional space has made things easier logistically in terms of coordinating all of the team’ schedules.

“People don’t think 15 or 20 minutes is a big deal, but as tight as our schedules are it is a big deal, and you don’t want to have start anything at 5:30 in the morning,” Bennett said.

The other very noticeable improvement is the aesthetics of the room itself, now much more open without any support columns in the middle, and brighter with natural sunlight coming through the roof and windows.

“It just gives them a whole new outlook on training. It’s not like you’re in a dungeon,” Bennett said. “They’re excited about working in here and you have the feeling as a student-athlete that the coaching staff, the administration, everybody here is behind us and want us to have a great experience.”

Additionally, larger television screens displaying all of the different workouts have been added and plan is upgrade the sound system in the near future and the move will allow athletic training to take over the old weight room. The two departments are also collaborating on a program emphasizing nutrition, with the hope of eventually putting a nutrition bar inside the new facility.

“It’s all about the young people and giving them a first-class facility to train in, making sure we’re doing the right things with them and giving them plenty of room to do what they need to do to get better,” Bennett said.

— Courtesy of RU Athletics