Virginia opens a new football operations center: Jerry Ratcliffe

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Every recent Virginia football coach has longed for a replacement for the McCue Center as the program’s center of operations. In the ACC’s football arms race, UVA certainly lagged far behind most of its home football rivals.

When Tony Elliott was named Virginia’s head coach for the 2022 season, he noted the need for a new facility, just as his predecessor Bronco Mendenhall had done six years earlier.

On Thursday, Elliott’s dream became a reality when the UVA athletic department officially unveiled its new football operations building, a 9,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility at a cost of approximately $80 million.

The University of Virginia’s Who’s Hoo, along with the Cavaliers football team, were on hand to tour the building of their dreams.

“For me personally, it’s about the reaction we got at 7:30 this morning when we opened the locker room doors and let the players in for the first time,” Elliott said with a big smile. “I just see the joy, the excitement. You see it on the faces of the current players, but it’s also a representation of all the guys who came here.”

Elliott said the facility is a sign that Virginia is investing heavily in its football program at a level competitive with all others.

“It’s great to be a part of this, and when you walk through the building you see what Virginia football is,” the coach said. “It is a building that must be timeless. I wanted it to capture all the different eras, be contemporary enough to show the flash and the glitz and glamor of certain recruits, but then also pay tribute to all the guys who didn’t have the chance to walk through those doors today to walk. but laid a foundation for football in Virginia.

The coaches and players were enthusiastic about the functionality of the building, the efficiency, everything under one roof. Nutrition, where the players can eat their meals, to strength training, sports medicine and recovery, player lounge, study area, team meeting rooms, position breakout rooms, a huge locker room, equipment room, coaches offices.

The first floor weight room is essentially twice the size of the former one in the McCue Building, large enough for the entire team to train at the same time. It is 150,000 square feet of dedicated lifting space with over 300,000 pounds of weightlifting equipment in the room.

Virginia’s new locker room features 126 custom lockers and a conference room with 195 custom chairs.

Defensive end Kam Butler, who is back for his seventh year of college football, beamed throughout the building.

“I didn’t look at any floor plans or projected photos beforehand, so when we first went in this morning it was crazy,” Butler said. “Everyone was screaming. The locker room is state of the art, their weight room is huge. Me and (safety) Antonio Clary and a few other guys decided to put a pump in while we were there.

Virginia’s players will practice in the weight room next Monday.

“The McCue Center is great, but there’s so much more space here,” Butler said. “The training room feels like it’s three times the size of McCue. We’re just excited to use these spaces and get started.”

Butler said that at the Power 5 football level (now Power 4 with the demise of the Pac 12), a bar has been set for the facilities within each conference.

“So I think this raises the bar for everyone else in the conference,” Butler said. “Our weight room is there, just like all the others in the country.”

Elliott was grateful to have input into the building, and functionality was a big part of his emphasis.

“For me, it’s all about the flow for the student-athlete and walking in their shoes about what’s important to them and how it’s going to flow so the whole team can work at the same time… we’re talking about 125 guys,” Elliott said. “It’s a team sport and it’s valuable to be able to get them all training at the same time. This way you can keep everyone together and keep the message consistent.”

Virginia officials also held a ribbon cutting for the Olympic sports programs, which are under construction on the other side of the McCue Center. It is about a year away from completion.

We will show more stories, photos and videos from the football building in the coming days.

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