McKay Athletic Center readies for opening

USC officials acknowledged Thursday that they anticipate the under-construction John McKay Center to be completed by the end of July, in time for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Running room · An indoor turf field located in the basement of the new McKay Athletic Center will provide additional practice space. - Ralf Cheung | Daily Trojan

The $70-million, 110,000 square-foot facility, which broke ground in January 2011, will house academic support services, a weight room and offices, among other facilities, for USC’s 21 varsity sports.

The McKay Center sits across the street from Howard Jones Field and west of Heritage Hall, which currently serves as the school’s primary athletic facility.

“This [involves] being efficient and utilizing our resources well, so we can keep up on the academic support angle, the sports performance angle, the sports medicine angle,” said Senior Associate Athletic Director Mark Jackson, who traveled across the country to visit other facilities and venues. “This isn’t driven through by recruiting. This is driven by maximizing what we can provide for our student-athletes and really giving them what they need to succeed.”

The project will be followed by renovations to Heritage Hall, McDonald’s Swim Stadium and Katherine B. Loker Stadium, which is primarily used by the Trojan track and field teams. No exact timetable has been
released yet.

The McKay Center is composed of three levels. The basement level holds various training facilities, including a 40-yard AstroTurf area, while the first and second levels consist of various academic-support programs and team meeting rooms, as well as a players’ lounge.

Many of those services will be used by football players, along with a number of Olympic athletes.

According to Jackson, academic support for student-athletes played a key role in the decision to build the center.

“From President [Steven B.] Sample to President [C. L. Max] Nikias, those guys have been our biggest supporters,” Jackson said. “This building would not have been [possible] without them. They understand the importance of athletics here at the university, but they also understand the importance of the academic mission of the athletic department.”

Players, roughly two per class, have been consulted throughout the project.

“I was involved, specifically, from the very beginning,” senior quarterback Matt Barkley said. “It was pretty cool to be a part of that — to get the inside look of everything.”

The goal is for construction to be completed in time for training camp for the football team, which typically begins in early August.

“That place is going to be unbelievable,” senior safety T.J. McDonald said. “We’re all excited about it. It’ll give us a place where all the players can go in and chill between classes. We’ll have a spot where we can play video games and just relax.”

The project is also expected to help with recruitment. According to USC coach Lane Kiffin, an effect on the recruitment of future Trojans has already been felt.

“I like that it’s there for our current guys,” Kiffin said following practice on Thursday. “It’s about recruiting. It already impacted the last class we signed. It’ll be a great impact for us.”

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