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CU's Champions Center: A foundation for the future

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The new home for football and athletics brings a renewed sense of tradition at CU

University of Colorado/ CU Buffs

On February 19th of last year, University of Colorado Athletic Director Rick George announced new facilities for football and athletic administration that would be constructed in conjunction to the Dal Ward Center. The 16-month project for CU's new Champions Center broke ground in April of 2014 and became a top priority for the newly hired AD. Recently, the second of three phases for the $156 million Athletic Complex Expansion neared its completion. The state-of-the-art facility features a High Performance and Sports Medicine Center. The first phase was completed last September with upgrades to the north end zone of Folsom Field.

Nearly 500 people a day have worked tirelessly since last year to bring the project to its completion. The six-story complex houses a medical facility that could serve as a hospital to evaluate injuries and occupies the entire second floor. It spreads over a combine 37,000 square feet and is one of the best facilities in the country housed on a university campus. The outstanding amenities for the football program includes the entire first floor with a sport-specific weight room, player lounge and a technologically enhanced locker room. The players are given access to built-in multimedia chargers in their lockers, along with a theater room for film study. It's become the common area for all the players to hangout and enjoy. A total of 17,500 square feet is dedicated to football operations and gives the Buffs one of the best athletic facilities in the nation. The center rivals the established compound for Oregon athletics and yet cost much less.

The expansion advances CU athletics into the next generation and can helps the programs move forward to a new level of competition.

"This is going to be very good for all of our sports", George said. "I believe it's having an impact. There's three things in our vision and in our mission statement, and the last one is to compete for and win championships. To be able to do that, you got to be able to compete for the best student athletes in the country. I think this facility allows us to do that."

Recruiting will be easier with the upgrades in technology and George is on board by staying ahead of the curve.

"It helps in recruiting because let's face it, young people are on their iPhones, iPads and smartphones all the time. So we have to make sure that we're moving in that same track the social media market is moving in."

The emergence of social media has been a major factor for discovering the best football players in the nation. George realizes the impacted need for technology and plans to maintain the facility to correspond with the ever-changing advancements in the world. He also knows the greater importance of what that means to the Buffs' players.

"Our student athletes have those capabilities because that's what they all want today. I think we've done that in these facilities and I think they can connect in different ways. We want to make sure the technology fit with the direction we're headed."

It's hard to believe the Buffs have lacked the resources that most "Power 5" programs have utilized for years. Something as simple as recovery pools were not an amenity before moving to the Champions Center. Now the players can restore their worn down muscles after practices which will further improve their training.

Even before Colorado left the Big 12 in 2010, the athletic facilities on campus became noticeably outdated compared to other schools in the conference. Making the move to the Pac-12 conference was a contributing factor for the new facilities. According to Forbes, the Pac-12 was a short second behind the Big Ten, making roughly $303 million in income for 2014. That figure is about $42 million more than what the Big 12 raked in last year at $262 million. Needless to say, CU has benefited from realignment with a greater revenue share and more national exposure. The Pac-12 Network has featured the construction throughout the entire process and gives a unique look inside the facility.

Coach Mike MacIntyre along with his staff have settled into the Champions Center. He plans on utilizing the complex to help earn more wins on the field and that starts with recruiting. Starting next year, MacIntyre has promised a "knock your socks off" class coming into Boulder. The new "Centerpiece" is immaculate, but attracting five-star talent is something that hasn't been accomplished in a decade. Walking into Mac's office provides an amazing view overlooking Folsom Field and gives recruits the unique backdrop of the foothills.

Everything comes with a price and for George, he knows winning on football field is a must.

"Everybody would say we made improvements last year, but we didn't from a record standpoint and we need to win football games. I think everybody understands that. I think Coach MacIntyre has put together a good staff and I really like this football team."

He believes it's very realistic for the team to end the season with a bid for a bowl game. "My expectation is that we win football games and I'm with the coaches and players -- they're out there talking about a bowl game and we have that expectation."

The entire project will come to an end February of next year with the addition of a new Indoor Practice Facility. The third and final phase of the expansion will sit adjacent from the Champions Center and spans a total of 120,000 square feet. It will features an artificial turf football field surrounded by a six-lane, 300 meter track. MacIntyre can't wait until the facility is built and practice is right next to his office. Track and field events can also be held on campus for the first time.

Say what you want about Rick George, but he committed to improving the future of Colorado athletics. The expansion is just the start to his devotion to moving the university forward. A renovation of Coors Event Center is likely the next project on the agenda. It's well overdue and builds a great foundation for the future of CU athletics.