UC Athletics Looks to Upgrade Facilities

During the school’s Big 12 press conference, University of Cincinnati Director of Athletics John Cunningham briefly summarized a zoom call with his head coaches about being in “growth mode” with regards to capital projects in order to compete off the field in the Big 12 on day one. Here are a few items on the shortlist.

Locker Rooms

Initially reported by Justin Williams of The Athletic, the planned $8 million renovation of the football program’s locker room was supposed to begin after the 2021 Peach Bowl against Georgia, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, construction never started. Consternation arose among the UC faithful when the locker room project was cut in half to around $4 million. What effect does the delay have on Luke Fickell who has been advocating for further upgrades to the on-campus facilities. The proposed locker room renderings (which you can find in the article from Justin Williams or here) are quite stunning.

While the slow progress of the locker room renovation may seem disheartening with regards to larger projects, there are some positives. Although the funding has been reduced, the overall aesthetic depicted in the renderings will stay the same. Also, the project may have been downsized to earmark that remaining $4 million for something bigger.

CINCINNATI, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 11: Ahmad Gardner #1 and Ja’von Hicks #3 of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrate after Gardner made an interception in the second quarter against the Murray State Racers at Nippert Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Indoor Football Practice Facility

The #8 Cincinnati Bearcats currently practice in an inflatable practice bubble during winter and some spring workouts when there is inclement weather. The bubble has been beneficial for UC’s finances as the athletic department is frequently cited as getting the best bang for buck when compared to other athletic departments nationwide.

With the Big 12 invite and tens of millions more dollars on the way due to a more lucrative TV deal, the University of Cincinnati has their eyes set on a permanent indoor practice facility for the program. This was the first thing John Cunningham mentioned when asked about capital projects for the athletic department. An IPF would appeal to recruits and most importantly, would be emblematic of a top 10 program. Plus, they would have an indoor facility before the Bengals.

Space is an issue for an on-campus IPF which likely means it will be somewhere outside of Clifton. While this is a concern, the primary focus is acquiring the funding to make the IPF a reality. If $4 million are already in the coffers for a $40M-$70M project, that’s a nice start, but will donors be ready to shell out more money after upgrades were already made to Nippert Stadium and Fifth-Third Arena in excess of $170 million.

With more TV money flowing in, I have no doubt an IPF will eventually be built, but it has to be done sooner than later in order to compete for the best recruits and retain Fickell. Hopefully, by 2024-2025, there is a set date on when construction will begin.

Basketball-Only Practice Gym

Not much to say here other than the fact that Wes Miller probably doesn’t want to share a practice gym with the non-revenue generating sports. On a side note, something has to be done with Armory Fieldhouse. It was the home of Oscar Robertson and the two national championship teams and is currently used as the indoor practice facility for UC Track & Field, but it is a bit of an eyesore. It won’t be the home of a basketball-only practice gym and there’s no point in spending millions to renovate it. Armory is in a weird state of stasis, but hopefully the athletic department can put the historical landmark to good use after they join the Big 12.

Expand Nippert to 50k (Unlikely)

Alright, so this is a bit of a pipe dream. While this might be possible, this is highly unlikely as it would involve extending the second level around the stadium to connect to the luxury suites that were added in the 2014-15 Nippert expansion. This won’t happen because the Dieterle Vocal Arts Center near the south end zone will never be removed. There were some renderings in 2012 that proposed a full second level that extended around the lower level, but the 2014-15 Nippert renovation was approved instead.

JUNCTA JUVANT

CINCINNATI, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 11: A general view of the student section during the game between the Murray State Racers and Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)