Sweat Mecca: The Oregon Ducks' High-Tech Performance Center
When asked about the 2013-opened Hatfield-Dowlin Complex at the shiny University of Oregon campus—one of the glitziest sports facilities in the world—Craig Pintens, a senior associate athletic director for the Ducks, told SI.com that he thought there were a couple things unique about the 145,000-square-foot facility that includes a new weight room.
A couple? Maybe he was being modest.
For starters, the weight room includes a 40-yard track equipped with video cameras surrounding it. The Oregon sports-performance staff can send an athlete sprinting down the track with his stride, gait, arm carriage, head angle, facial grimace and every other movement captured in HD for dissection and analysis, all for the purpose of speeding him up. Being just one of three such setups in the world, Pintens admits, the system is rare.
Designed with comprehensive input from Oregon’s strength coaches for optimal performance for the athletes, the complex garners some style points as well. Oregon-only touches fill the weight room, including a floor made out of Brazilian Ipe wood—a wood so hard it can bend nails.
“It is the densest wood known to mankind,” Pintens says. “It doesn’t float, doesn’t burn. That makes it ideal for a weight room.”
The entire Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, paid for by the extravagance of Nike’s Phil Knight, dazzles. Meeting rooms, lockers, dining facilities, auditoriums, all bristle with high-end finishes and attention to detail, but the weight room remains the functional center of the Oregon football players’ working world.
At about 25,000 square feet, the weight room is larger than what the team had before in the Casanova Center. By moving the football players to Hatfield-Dowlin, more space was opened for all the other sports teams on campus, whether in Casanova or in the smaller weight room within Matthew Knight Arena.
The focus on strength and speed inside the new weight room extends well beyond the six-story building designed by ZGF Architects of Portland, right into a sand pit and incline hills—used for specialized training regimens—just steps from the weight room and the practice facility that the venue overlooks.
Between the practice field and the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex sits “cryo-chute” pools. Football players wade through the “warmer” pool at about 57 degrees, then through a 45-degree pool on their way inside, all designed to quickly clear the body of waste and speed recovery following practice.
“They used to sit in giant kiddy pools filled with ice,” Pintens says. “They would have to sit in them a lot longer than they have to wade through [the new ones]. It has increased efficiency.”
While Pintens notes that the complex, with its high-end finishes and materials from around the world, tends to send visitors’ jaws dropping as soon as they walk in (the eye-candy includes televisions embedded in bathroom mirrors, ventilated lockers, magic shelves in those lockers that recharge mobile devices, Ferrari leather, walnut-lined furnishings, Spanish-made foosball tables and a barber shop), he insists that it is the efficiency of space that makes the center and the weight room big winners.
“It was designed with functionality at its core,” he says. From such simple touches as putting the dining area next to the teaching wing and placing the locker room equal distance from the indoor practice facility and Autzen Stadium to even the flow of the building, every detail has a reason.
“The flow of the building is outstanding,” Pintens says. “There is no wasted movement.”
In architecture and in sports, it seems, the goal is the same.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.