Blogs and Commentary

posted 09.30.2011 at 5.30 p.m. by Corey McLaughlin

Big Vision for Future Michigan Facilities; Indoor and Outdoor Stadiums

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- For likely three to four years, Michigan's lacrosse offices will be housed in a temporary double-wide trailer in a parking lot nearby the Wolverines' softball field, within short walking distance of Oosterbaan Field House, where the club team has historically played and where the new varsity Michigan men's lacrosse team has practiced this fall.

It's a nice trailer, with men's and women's bathrooms, internet and enough space for head coach John Paul to have his own office and assistants Judd Lattimore and Ken Broschard to share another; room for a waiting area with a large flat screen television and desks for director of lacrosse operations Joe Hennessy and a future volunteer assistant coach. And that's just the men's half of the trailer. Newly hired women's coach Jenny Ulehla is the only occupant of the women's side.

When recruits come into town, Paul and the staff still would rather them not see the temporary digs, but they can also offset their current state by pointing to the future. Recruits, in addition to football games, are taken around campus into some of the other UM athletic facilities and academic centers to explain that "this is how we do it here at Michigan." For example, when Paul brought me into the $26.1 million indoor football practice facility built in 2009, it gives a sense of the same feeling of grandeur when I first stepped inside the new Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

On a smaller scale, that's the vision for Michigan's future lacrosse facilities. In three to four years, Michigan intends to finish a standalone indoor-outdoor lacrosse facility (with a first of its kind indoor lacrosse stadium) along with coaches' offices, locker rooms, meeting rooms and the like, Paul said. It would make other facilites, even one's being built now, looks like small potatoes.

Paul met with architects for the first time last Tuesday to set the groundwork.

"We're just at the early stages of figuring out what's possible," Paul said, "but the plan right now is to build two separate competition facilities for lacrosse only, one indoor and one outdoor."

"The vision for the outdoor is an improved version of what everybody else has been building the last few years, like Notre Dame's. The indoor is what we're really excited about. The vision right now is to build a dedicated lacrosse-only indoor stadium. However many seats we end up with, whether that be 4,000 or 10,000. We don't know how much space and cost. But that's the vision. The architects right now have all the parameters that we want. They've asked us for what's your dream facility and now they're figuring out how to fit all the pieces out there."

Unique design details such as a special vaccum system that takes the stench out of players' lockers was even disucssed. There is no shortage of grand visions.

Paul is confident Michigan could raise the funds needed for whatever the final plans include. He had cultivated a donor base to support a club budget over recent years that operated around $700,000. A group of former club players, current and past parent's of club players, and general supporters of Michigan lacrosse raised between $5-6 million in a few months this spring when needed given that target by athletic director Dave Brandon to start up the varsity programs. About 70 people donated in various amounts, with three major contributors. At least one gift was in the seven-figure range, Brandon said.

"This would probably take a bigger donor group," Paul said of raising money for a facility, "but they know this is the next step in the evolution of the program if we want to get where we want to get, quickly."

Brandon, in an interview Tuesday with Lacrosse Magazine, didn't talk about specifics for lacrosse facilities, but did say: "Walk around this athletic campus and you can see how we do our facilities. We're not going to add lacrosse and put them in a tent. We're going to do it the Michigan way, and build it to last. We're looking at a couple options and they have real estate implications. Architects are going to work. ... We're going to put these student-athletes in the same environment we try to put all our student-athletes in, in terms of competitive facilities, facilities where we can recruit aggressively, and facilities that are in keeping with our sense of our self."