When the Clemson athletic department got the go ahead to build its 140,000 square foot football complex that will connect with the already 80,000 square foot indoor practice facility, Dabo Swinney delivered a message he wanted to be conveyed throughout the building, “Clemson is warm, fun and family.”
“That’s what he tells people and recruits, and he said the building needs to reflect that,” said Thad Turnipseed, Clemson Football’s Director of Recruiting and External Affairs.
When “Dabo’s World,” which it is affectionately called, is complete on January 26, 2017, it will be the only one of its kind. It will be a $55 million facility that will house the entire football program. In addition, it will provide visitors with a unique Clemson experience with an indoor replica of the Hill and Howard’s Rock as well as several interactive videos that will allow fans to connect with current players and coaches, Clemson’s rich football traditions and much more.
For the players, coaches and football support staff, the facility will include a career development and leadership center, a players’ lounge, locker rooms, a state-of-the-art training and rehab facility, the best weight room in college football, a nutrition center and dining facility unlike any other, spacious meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and a first-of-its-kind recruiting war room.
“I pumped. It is going to be awesome because I’m going to have two more years with it,” Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said. “I feel bad for the guys leaving this year.”
Renfrow should be pumped because the new football complex was ultimately built for him and his teammates, and those who follow them at Clemson for generations to come.
“This whole thing is for the wellbeing of the player … mentally, socially and academically,” Turnipseed said.
Besides all the bells and whistles any program needs to be competitive at the FBS level, Clemson has gone out of its way to make this a facility that is more about the current players and those coming in than anything else.
They will have access to a golf simulator that will allow them to play on some of the nicest golf courses in the country. There is a two-lane bowling alley, where they can bring a date and bowl on a Friday or Saturday night. There will be a movie theater, where they can rent a DVD and watch a movie or play an X-Box video game. There will also be a pool table and a ping pong table in the players’ lounge, along with some other arcade and video games such as Nintendo 64 and PlayStation as well as televisions and much more.
On the outside there will be a nine-hole putt-putt golf course, along with a basketball court and an outdoor seating and grilling area that will be the only one of its kind in the country.
“We get hit by schools like South Carolina that say, ‘Hey, you go to Clemson and there is nothing to do. You have to drive ten miles, or however far it is, to get to a movie theater,’” Turnipseed said.
“I know a lot of people have asked why they will have putt-putt course, but the whole course is less than $85,000 for nine holes of putt-putt,” he continued. “It gives the guys something to do while they are here. It is good for recruiting as well. I know that sounds like a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of this building, and for the amount of entertainment it can provide, that is a great deal.”
Building it for the players
From the beginning, Swinney has built his program around the idea of having good character young men, who just happen to be talented athletes as well, representing Clemson. He doesn’t want them to just go onto the NFL and be successful. Swinney recruits to young men that become successful at life in general.
If you look at some of Swinney’s most successful players, C.J. Spiller, Dwayne Allen, DaQuan Bowers, Tajh Boyd, Vic Beasley, Mackensie Alexander and Grady Jarrett, they were not known as guys that like to go out and experience what the “traditional life” for a college kid is all about. Even current players such as Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Christian Wilkins and Renfrow seldom journey downtown or frequent fraternity parties.
“Our whole idea for this building is to first make it for the players and secondly for recruiting,” Turnipseed said. “We do things for the culture here. Most of our kids, and don’t get me wrong we have some normal college kids that go out and do the normal college thing, but most of our kids are good kids who do not really like the bar scene, the night scene or the parting scene.
“This is a safe place to go and hang out for them. We will manage it, and we are still working on how we will manage it. I don’t know if it will be two nights a weekend or one night every weekend, but this building will be open until twelve or one o’clock on many nights.”
For $10 players can even buy their own hamburger meat, invite a friend over and grill on the outside seating area and then go watch a movie, play putt-putt, go bowling or even shoot hoops if they want.
“It gives us an alternative for going out and partying and stuff like that,” Renfrow said. “Even now with the Indoor (Facility) we are in there playing Wiffle Ball or Ultimate Frisbee or soccer so this gives us another outlet.
“There is a movie theater where we can go play X-Box or Nintendo 64, or we can go out to the outdoor area and grill. There is a lot of stuff we can do. It is kind of endless. We have a basketball court, and I’m sure we can makeup plenty of games while we are out there. Maybe we can go bowling, or we can set up some cones at the bottom of the (replica) Hill and create a game like that. I’m just excited to be around it and goof off.”
Christmas in January
Renfrow says it feels like he will be opening a Christmas present when the new football facility opens up on January 26, 2017. He personally can’t wait to get in and try out the golf simulator.
“I think that is going to be awesome. We can go in there and play Pebble Beach at night, and come back and play Augusta National in the morning so I think that is pretty cool,” he said.
But it isn’t just all about fun and games. Clemson will still expect its players to get their required workouts in, to watch film and prepare themselves both mentally and physically for school and for what happens on the football field.
The two areas the players are really excited about have nothing to do with golf, putt-putt, video games or basketball courts. Instead, it’s the two nap areas they will be able to use.
Clemson will be the first football program to have napping areas for players to use as they come from classes to meetings and practice or from early workouts to class. What most people fail to understand is the players spend more time at the football facility than they do at their own apartments because it makes more sense from a practical standpoint then to go come and have to come back to campus later.
“They spend a lot of hours over here. Most guys will just come here to work out and then will go take a nap in the corner and stay here until class starts,” Turnipseed said. “This is something we have noticed so we decided will have an outdoor recovery area that will be outside and under Dabo’s office and is a nice space where they can rest for a little while.
“There is also one inside where guys can go disconnect. There are no TVs there. It is just to lay down and relax.”
The inside area will have two three-level bunk beds, that will be a lot like a training table. It will be comfortable enough to where they can rest, but it will not be a bed. There will also be three Brook Stone Massage Chairs, bean bags and low lighting.
On the outdoor area, there will be seats and oversized porch swings that players can use to relax in between classes and workouts.
The first thing Swinney said he wanted installed when he first made plans for the building was a slide. That’s correct a slide.
Clemson will have a slide for the players that will allow them to leave the players’ lounge on the second floor and slide down to where the locker room is located on the first floor.
“One thing he told me was, ‘We need a slide. People may make fun of it, but the slide is fun.’ It does not cost very much money at all. It is a big feature of the building,” Turnipseed said. “Then as we started talking and he said, ‘What about a hill, how about a replica of the Hill?’ So those things kind of gained momentum as we went through the process and they kind of make sense and sound fun.”
Renfrow says Swinney has been talking about the slide for some time now, even when he was being recruited to Clemson.
“He is for sure going to be the first one on it,” the Tigers’ star wide receiver said. “He is going to go head first. It is going to be fun.”
Renfrow said he and his teammates can’t wait to get on it as well.
“It is going to be sick because we are going to be shooting basketball in the players’ lounge, playing X-Box five minutes before we need to be ready and we can just slide down and be right there in the locker room so we can have some fun with that too,” he said. “I’m sure we will be greasing up the slide with whatever we need to and make it go a little bit faster.”
In the end, “Dabo’s World” will be exactly what he wants it to be … warm, fun and for the family. So much so, the players may never want to leave.
“It is going to make it that much tougher. Coach Swinney does a good job of getting former players to come back so I’ll definitely still be here,” Renfrow said.
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