Virginia opens new football operations center

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

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

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

On Thursday, Elliott’s dream became a reality as the UVA athletic department officially unveiled its new football ops building, 93,000-square feet, state-of-the-art at a cost of approximately $80 million.

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

“For me personally, it’s about the reaction that we got at 8:30 this morning when we opened the doors to the locker room and let the players go in for the first time,” Elliott said with a huge smile. “Just seeing the joy, the excitement. You’re seeing it on the faces of the current players, but it’s also a representation of all the guys that have come through here.”

Elliott said the facility is a sign that Virginia is heavily invested in its football program at a level that’s competitive with everyone else.

“It’s awesome to be part of this, and as you go through the building, you see what Virginia football is,” the coach said. “It’s a building to be timeless. I wanted it to capture all the different eras, to be contemporary enough to show the flash and the glitz and glamour for certain recruits, but then also pay homage to all the guys that didn’t have an opportunity to walk through those doors today, but laid a foundation for Virginia football.”

The coaches and players gushed over the functionality of the building, the efficiency, everything under one roof. Nutrition, where the players can eat their meals, to weight training, sports medicine and recovery, players’ lounge, study area, team meeting rooms, position breakout rooms, a massive locker room, equipment room, coaches offices.

The first-floor weight room is essentially twice the size of the former in the McCue building, large enough so the entire team can work out all at the same time. It is 14,000 square feet of dedicated lifting space with more than 150,000 pounds of weightlifting equipment in the space.

Virginia’s new locker room boasts 126 custom lockers and a meeting room with 195 custom seats.

Defensive end Kam Butler, who is back for his seventh year of college football, was beaming about the building.

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

Virginia’s players will start working out in the weight room next Monday.

“The McCue Center is great, but there’s so much more room in 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 to work.”

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

“So I think this raises the bar for everyone else in the conference,” Butler said. “Our weight room is right there with everybody else in the country.”

Elliott was grateful that he was allowed 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 really, walk in their shoes as to what’s important to them and how it’s going to flow, so the entire team can work at the same time … we’re talking about 125 guys,” Elliott said. “It’s a team sport, and being able to have them all training at the same time is valuable so you can keep everybody together and keep the message consistent.”

Virginia officials also featured the ribbon cutting for its Olympic sports programs, which is under construction at the other end of the McCue Center. It is about a year away from completion.

We will showcase more stories, photos and videos of the football building in the coming days.