Even University of Nebraska staff aren’t quite certain how big the extravagant Ndamukong Suh Strength and Conditioning Center is, but James Dobson, Huskers’ head football strength coach, tells SI.com that, whatever the size—somewhere around 20,000 square feet, give or take—it’s “big enough for what we need to do.”
Indeed, the center, which opened in 2006 and carries the name of the former Cornhuskers defensive lineman, who donated $2 million to help build it, is 50 percent larger than the school’s previous weight room, making it one of the largest collegiate weight rooms in the nation. But even beyond its sheer size, the Suh Center offers plenty to draw both recruits and players alike.
“The facility is big and spacious with a lot of natural light and [is] aesthetically appealing,” Dobson says while pointing to the oversized arching windows. “It gives off a kind of Wow factor.”
But what Dobson, who has been with the program since 2008, really cares about is that the space and openness allows him to embrace a focus on free weights and dumbbells and his philosophy of movement, all without having to take his Huskers out to the field or to a different building. All training that needs to happen can be carried out in the Suh Center.
Built on the north side of the Huskers’ famed Memorial Stadium in the Tom and Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex, the Suh Center provides Dobson with a 55-yard-long and 15-yard-wide open space and 20 custom-built weight racks with Nebraska-designed power analyzers on every rack. These power analyzers—created in conjunction with an on-campus performance lab for the football team—collect data for coaches and players that helps in the development of their strength and conditioning programs.
Don’t expect much in the way of machines beyond that, though, in this wide-open facility. “There are not a lot of machines since we believe in multi-joint movements,” Dobson says. “That really guides us in our programming, and this space is really functional.”
Add in some sharp-looking wooden bases to the racks with an oversized N logo and the power racks couldn’t get any more personalized for the Huskers. There are a number of other suck grace notes throughout the facility, nods to both Suh and to Nebraska tradition, Dobson says. Nebraska football was the first collegiate program to have staff specifically focused on strength and conditioning, and since “traditions run deep,” you can find tributes to that tradition throughout the center, including prominence given to the programs’ original logo.
Befitting its name, the Suh Center is used almost exclusively by the football program, leaving the rest of Nebraska’s athletic programs to train in a different on-campus facility. The footballers do occasionally share the center with women’s soccer and the wrestling program, though. After all, there’s plenty of room.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.