BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente had a clear vision for the program’s players lounge last year when the athletic department took the first steps toward getting the project off the ground.
“My kind of directive on this was I want to turn it into Dave & Buster’s,” Fuente said in a phone interview with The Roanoke Times this week. “I want a place for our kids to go to play video games, play cards, watch TV, fellowship and hang out together. I know that’s where we are headed with it. It’s well underway.”
Dave & Buster’s is a national chain of entertainment venues that features a full-service restaurant and video arcade with dedicated areas for watching sports.
Fuente and athletic director Whit Babcock mentioned the project during Tuesday’s “Reach for Excellence” press conference where the school unveiled an ambitious $400 million dollar fundraising campaign.
One component of the campaign is a $30 million football enhancement fund with $8 million of that expected to go toward capital projects like the players lounge. According to a source with knowledge of the project, the price tag for the renovations are expected to be close to $1 million.
Tech recently completed a $4.5 million project to expand and renovate the football’s team’s weight room in the Merryman Center as well as a new $20.4 million student-athlete performance center that replaced the Bowman Room in the Jamerson Athletic Center.
The space for the players lounge is located on the floor above the team’s locker room and overlooks the team’s indoor practice facility. The original players lounge was built as part of the $15 million project to expand the Jamerson Athletic Center back in 2009.
“We had the space, it just had become a multi-purpose room,” Fuente said. “Part of that was due to all the construction we had going on. We were using it for different things. It had kind of drifted away from being purely for our players to escape and hang out.”
There are recruiting offices in that area of the building that will be relocated and enlarged to accommodate the recent increase in staff.
Jack Porter, a South Carolina-based consulting agency, handled the design and came up with the conceptual renderings for the project. The company has worked with dozens of Power Five programs and among its recently completed projects are the dedicated football buildings at South Carolina, Notre Dame and Clemson.
One of the features Tech is most excited about is the game day entrance experience that will be an immersive audio visual experience with motion activated sensors to play “Enter Sandman” when visitors approach.
As the music plays, the lighting in the corridor simulates the energy of the crowd to make visitors feel like they are walking through the Avery Tunnel on game day.
The players lounge area will have card tables, a pool hall (with pingpong tables as well), a snack and beverage station, theater room, arcade area and a large television area with comfortable seating.
Fuente is leaving the choice of arcade games up to the players’ leadership council — he knows his personal favorite, Galaga, is a long shot, but he’s holding out hope for a Pop-A-Shot — and eager to add the room to the itinerary for visiting recruits.
“There is some dead time when you are recruiting,” Fuente said. “You are moving large groups of people across campus. Sometimes you need a place to literally lounge and visit and wait for the next group. Having a space that can entertain people and is right in the middle of everything that’s going is really beneficial.”
Babcock said on Tuesday that construction will start in July and his hope is for the lounge to be completed by the start of the 2021 football season. The carpet and the food prep area in the back of the room have already been removed in anticipation of that construction start date in July.