On Wednesday, Clemson football will officially move into its new 142,000 square foot, $55 million complex, which affectionately has become known as “Dabo’s World” by the media.
On Monday, The Clemson Insider got an exclusive tour of the new facility, which will host its first big event this weekend when some of the nation’s top junior prospects visit Clemson for its Elite Junior Day. While construction crews are finishing up last minutes details, football coaches and staff members are moving all of their belongings into their new offices.
Clemson broke ground on the new football complex in November of 2015. Clemson, fresh off winning the national championship on Jan. 9 against Alabama, will host its official ribbon cutting for the new building on National Signing Day (Feb. 1).
The project took just 14 months to complete.
“This was Dabo’s vision from day one. I had no idea I would be building a football building this quick when I got here, but this is my wheelhouse,” Clemson’s director of recruiting and external affairs Thad Turnipseed said.
Swinney’s goal for the facility is to provide members of the football program and visitors with a unique Clemson experience. In addition to an indoor replica of the Hill and Howard’s Rock, the facility will include a career development and leadership center, a players’ lounge, locker rooms, training/rehab facility, weight room, a nutrition center and dining facility, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and a first-of-its-kind recruiting war room.
Yes, there will be other amenities too in the new football complex, such as a bowling alley, a movie theater, a nap room, a nine-hole putt-putt course and an outdoor seating and grilling area. But those are just amenities. They’re not what the structure is about.
“I have always preferred the situation where you walked from the meeting room to the practice field,” Swinney said. “I just think it is a better situation for the coaches and the players to be in the same facility. It was in the planning stage for two years and now it is becoming a reality.
“This will allow us to have a football operations center where it all happens … the practice, the indoor facility, the weight room, everything. You name it. It’s total operations, right there, so you’re with them and interacting with them all the time.”
Turnipseed has been the bridge between Swinney and the athletic department, making sure no stone goes unturned and no corners are cut.
“This past year I have made sure this building is seventy percent functionality wise what we need,” he said. “I have been working with Joe Simon, who is the athletic department’s capital projects guy, Graham (Neff) and Dan. They have given us a lot of leeway in giving us exactly what we want.
“Dabo and Woody McCorvey sign off on all the different concepts as they have evolved.”
When Swinney envisioned the new football complex, it wasn’t just a vision to give Clemson an edge over its competitors or a recruiting advantage. His goal is to have a facility that will bring his entire team together.
“This building is to serve the heart and not the talent,” Turnipseed said. “If you serve the heart and not the talent and you love, serve and care for one another … that is the whole theme of this.”
What will make the new football complex so special is that so many people have invested a lot of time and resources into building it.
“We had a lot of thoughts from a lot of people, starting with Dabo, on getting this on what it became,” Turnipseed said. “We have the land here. We were fortunate enough to have the soccer fields and we were fortunate enough to have a president and a board of trustees that understood the vision and the importance of what we are doing.
“We had to build the soccer fields. That allowed us to have this space. Very few people, and I don’t know of anybody, who has the land opportunity to do what we have been able to do and how it allows us to tie this all together.”
Swinney has said the new football complex will be the football program’s home for generations to come. Turnipseed says it will also be the standard in College Football as well. Others schools who have recently visited Clemson, say Clemson is an A-plus when it comes to its new facility, while everyone else is just a C-minus at best. That’s the gap between Clemson and everyone else.
“The nap room, the bowling alley, the theatre, the outdoor seating area, a lot of people don’t do the dinning all. Most people do the dinning with the general student body on campus,” Turnipseed said. “Dabo has been strong about creating a culture. The more time we eat together and spend time together, the closer we are going to be.
“(The president, the board of trustees and the athletic director) they could have all said they weren’t going to do that. The one reason we are successful here is because Dabo respects the chain of command. He is an ultimate team player. Some coaches have an ego. I think, when a college football program gets in trouble is when you have a coach who does not respect the chain of command or becomes bigger than the president or bigger than the athletic director. Everybody bought into this thing.
“This building here is the standard for college football for many years to come. Most people, no matter what they try to do, they can’t come close to it because they don’t have the land. It will be economically impossible unless they have some billion dollar T. Boone Pickens to come in and take out half a billion dollars’ worth of facilities, which likely is not going to happen. This is the foundation for Clemson football for generations. This is a difference maker.”
It’s a vision Dabo Swinney started years ago before he even won his first ACC Championship. He wanted to bring Clemson together. He wanted to make it a family once again. And he has.
“Some people might be able to build a building that is close to it, but until they get a Dabo Swinney that believes in that philosophy, their building will never function the way we function here,” Turnipseed said.
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