For anyone who thinks Nebraska Athletics revolves solely around Big Red football, think again. The $18.7 million Hendricks Training Complex, launched last summer and on schedule to open next fall, showcases what can happen when creativity meets vision and execution follows strategic planning.
"Through the generosity of all of our great donors, this is going to be a top-drawer facility. It's going to be among the very best in the country," said John Ingram, Nebraska's associate athletic director for Capital Planning and Construction. "It's also going to be a huge recruiting tool for us."
Tom and Mary Hendricks, along with their children, Jennifer and Brandon, donated $10 million to jump-start the fundraising effort for the Hendricks Training Complex, which will include a new men's and women's basketball practice facility and create space for a new wrestling facility within the 71,420 square feet of new construction, plus 4,000 square feet of renovation.
The men's court will be called "Bus Whitehead Court" in honor of the late Milton Edgar "Bus" Whitehead, a 6-foot-9 all-conference player on back-to-back Big Six and Big Seven Conference championship teams in 1949 and '50 - the last two regular-season conference titles in Nebraska basketball history.
The founder of Lincoln's Whitehead Oil Company was also a Nebraska basketball Hall-of-Famer and the captain of the Huskers' all-time basketball team. He played in the East-West All-Star Game in Madison Square Garden and earned the program's first Distinguished Hall-of-Fame Alumni Award.
Whitehead's Children Honor Their Late Father
The three children of Bus and his late wife, Jeannie Whitehead - Sydney Uthoff of Houston, Lesley Jaggers of Lincoln and Mark Whitehead of Lincoln - donated equally to have their father's name inscribed on Nebraska's everyday practice court.
All three remember how Bus always wondered why two major college programs had to share the same practice floor and how difficult that made it for both to keep up with their main rivals.
Now, Nebraska not only will catch up with its rivals, but sprint ahead of many of the best basketball programs in the country in terms of practice facilities, not to mention the new Downtown Haymarket Arena set to open in 2013.
Once both facilities are operational, Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne believes the Huskers will train in and compete in facilities that rank among the nation's top three percent.
"A lot of newly built practice facilities across the country only have eight extra feet of room around their full-sized courts," Ingram pointed out. "Each of our new practice facilities will have an extra half court beyond the full court, so while a full-court scrimmage is going on, players can still be shooting three-point shots or free throws or working on something else they need to work on."
High-End Courts Will Be Similar to New Arena's
Nebraska will have two major components that will separate it from many recently built practice facilities - cushioned courts and high-end acoustics, both of which are crucial for players and coaches.
"We're putting a lot of resources into these new courts to make sure the flooring is as good as possible," Ingram said. "We're installing high-end courts with dynamics that will be similar to the main court they will play in downtown. Our players will have incredible cushioning effects that will help the wear-and-tear of daily practices. They will absolutely love the flooring that will bear the Bus Whitehead name."
Acoustics is equally important. "It's a major focus for us," Ingram said, "because we're building this facility to make sure we have more of a classroom environment where the coaches can teach and the players can learn."
In benchmarking other facilities across the country, through both personal visits and virtual online tours, Ingram and Maggi Thorne, assistant director of Capital Planning and Construction, saw expensive facilities being built with poor acoustics.
"It made it difficult to communicate what you're trying to accomplish during practice," Ingram said, adding that the more his team analyzed the issue, the more determined it was not to repeat the problem.
"With sound acoustics, it made sense to install 103-inch plasma TVs on each practice court to aid teaching," Ingram said. "We've looked all over the country to learn what works and what doesn't, and with the layouts we're putting together, we believe we're going to be among the elite in the country."
Hendricks Training Complex at a Glance
- 71,420 square feet of new construction; 4,000 square feet of renovation.
- Begun in July, 2010; complete in October, 2011.
- Offices and locker rooms for men's basketball, women's basketball and wrestling.
- Basketball meeting rooms with state-of-the-art A/V equipment.
- Custom iPads and stainless steel recovery tanks in the basketball locker rooms.
- Player hallway with interactive display featuring lighted, red, 3D basketballs.
- 5,000-square-foot strength and conditioning complex.
- "The Oasis" nutrition station, plus kitchen with lounge, A/V and custom lighting sculptures.
- Practice courts painted identically to the game courts at West Haymarket Arena.
- 103-inch plasma TVs to aid teaching on practice courts.
- Grand lobby with 25-foot video wall, custom granite basketball fountain and 2-story custom art.
- Balconies overlooking practice gyms and connecting to basketball offices.
- Court-and-a-half basketball gyms, allowing extra free throw and three-point shooting.
- Three-mat wrestling practice facility with satellite training room.
- Expanded athletic medicine facility.
- Remodeled swimming/diving locker room and lounge.
- New addition entrance to be Devaney Center day-to-day entrance.