When David Williams announced last December plans for a $30 million multi-use indoor facility, the Vanderbilt athletics director was optimistic with the target date of completion.
He figured the structure and its 120-yard football field would be open before the 2014 football season.
Now, he believes the Commodores will be practicing under a roof by Halloween 2013. They took that first step on Monday when construction crews gathered to the east of the student recreational center, which will also be renovated, and started preparing the future site.
“It’s probably moved as fast as any building here since my 12 years,” Williams said. “We sort of made that decision in December and we knew we had to raise a certain amount of money. So, when you think of it, to be able to have everything done and the money raised in maybe eight, nine months, it is pretty phenomenal.”
The entire project, which was driven by second-year coach James Franklin and includes an addition to the student recreation center, is expected to be finished by New Year’s Day 2014. But Williams believes the facility, which will house a practice football field and 300-meter indoor track, can be ready for use a couple months earlier.
The structure will be used by all varsity sports, specifically football, soccer and lacrosse, as well as intramural and club sports and by students, faculty and staff.
Since it is a multi-use facility, Vanderbilt was able to tap into university funds through the athletics department, student life and academics and Health Plus — the university’s faculty and staff wellness program — to contribute to half of the more than $30 million needed. The other half came from several lead donors.
“It is a combination of trying to help football and other sports but also a big part being the multi-use facet of this,” Williams said of the quick turnaround. “It is going to benefit the entire university community and beyond. ... We’re seeing some of the high schools who are interested, ‘Well, we can practice.’ Now some of the high schools around here will start to have an indoor track season. That’s what kind of got this thing really, really up there that you can help football and you can help the whole university, community and beyond with your same dollar.”
• Not panicking: After reaching a bowl in Franklin’s first year as coach, the Commodores have sputtered out of the gate with two early season losses and are just 1-2 heading into this Saturday’s game at No. 5 Georgia.
But Franklin, not surprisingly, hasn’t lost the support of Williams, who isn’t concerned about the slow start.
“I would say just to fans you don’t change things overnight and I would hope they don’t basically desert overnight,” Williams said. “I think the program is obviously going in the right direction. I see it on a day-to-day basis. The kids are getting better, the team is getting better and everything is getting better. We’re pleased with where we’re going. Would we rather be 3-0? Who wouldn’t?
“But the fact of the matter is the sky is not falling and there is no panic over here.”
• Ladler to play: Free safety Kenny Ladler is back on the first-team depth chart and is expected to start against Georgia.
The junior from Stone Mountain, Ga., did not play against Presbyterian last weekend due to an undisclosed injury he suffered against Presbyterian the week before. Through two games, he ranks fourth on the team with 16 tackles in addition to an interception and sack.
• Georgia influence: When Vanderbilt rolls into Athens this weekend, a bevy of Commodores will be playing in their home state. Nineteen players are from Georgia, tying only Tennessee for the most from one state. Five starters will be playing back home, including wide receivers Chris Boyd and Jonathan Krause, guard Ryan Seymour, tackle Andrew Bridges, punter Richard Kent and Ladler.