Resort facilities

A&M sports facilities set for extreme makeover

COLLEGE STATION — The sloppiest facade on the Texas A&M skyline is about to get a makeover for good — and for the better.

“When school starts, we’ll start to see major progress where the horizon is changing,” A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said of the demolition of the old indoor athletics complex. Aggies along Wellborn Road. “The building is expected to come down in mid to late August. Things are on the right track; things are moving. »

The adjacent indoor soccer complex is set to be demolished after bowling practice in December, so the A&M football team will still have it for the 2022 season. The new indoor soccer complex and its much more appealing design architecturally – which takes on the footprint of the old indoor track building – is set to open in August 2023, Bjork said.

The two cheap-looking buildings that seem to need an air pump (they don’t have one) have been in place for about 15 years and have served their purpose, but will fall victim to A&M’s aim to raise $120 million through its fundraising. arms, the 12th Man Foundation.

Bjork said A&M raised just under $100 million for the massive overhaul of the campus football and track areas (visit thecentennialcampaign.com for more information).

With SEC media days starting Monday in Atlanta — A&M coach Jimbo Fisher takes the stage Thursday as the last of 14 coaches to speak — Bjork tackled a handful of topics with Hearst Newspapers, including the latest realignment of the conference.

“We’re really in a strong position as things continue to unfold,” Bjork said of the Southeastern Conference roster as UCLA and Southern Cal prepare to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024. “From a personal perspective, I hope the waters stay calm (overall) because where this is all heading, I don’t know if it’s good for athletics university in general.

Texas and Oklahoma are expected to join the SEC no later than the summer of 2025 and likely sooner, giving the nation’s most powerful conference 16 teams. Bjork’s hope is that the waters of the realignment will indeed settle in the months and years to come.

“We need all kinds of programs and all kinds of leagues to be successful,” Bjork said of conferences like the Big 12 not only surviving but thriving in the future. “We need competition and we need the college football playoff expansion. (But) the advantage of being in the SEC is that we are in a position of strength.

“…There are a lot of things to sort out, but we all need to stick together for the health of college sports.”

Bjork realizes right now that this is easier said than done with several hot topics burning in the pit, among them the future of college sports a year after athletes can benefit financially from their name, image and likeness (NIL). He added that A&M and its student-athletes and donors have handled logistics and novelty “very well” a year later.

“The flip side is where the market goes, and that’s the part you can’t control,” Bjork said. “You don’t know where this is heading. …(and) the university and athletic department cannot be involved in arranging or facilitating agreements (NIL).

This has led to greater freedom for all with different states having different laws regarding NIL – creating an imbalance that Bjork said the federal government will have to correct at some point.

“Should there be or could there be more university involvement?” Bjork asked schools to try to better understand NIL’s activities. “…Overall (at A&M) everything has gone very well, and our student-athletes are handling things with a lot of maturity and communicating (contracts and agreements) with us. They follow state law.

Fisher, entering his fifth year at A&M, said in part earlier this summer, “The answer is there is no answer (yet), but we have to have consistency. Players deserve (money) – they have earned the right to have these things. How you get there or the things that happen – that’s where the debates are. …

“When you combine (the transfer portal) with NIL, (people) use them for inducements and enticements, and that’s wrong. … Boosters can’t have a factor in any of these things, and they shouldn’t. (But) they do, and we need to have some consistency across the board.

Bjork, too, struggles to predict future travel arrangements for sports like tennis, soccer, golf, or athletics, among others, in a geographic context like the future Big Ten. The SEC, for example, has only added programs in the last decade that require crossing rivers or state lines.

UCLA and USC will have to cross mountains and desert and, in some cases, the whole country to compete in their new league. Bjork, now in his fourth year at A&M, served as senior associate athletic director at UCLA from 2005 to 2010, and he understands the many challenges facing the once-important West Coast program in a league that has taken very behind on the football front.

It’s been nearly two decades since a Pac-12 program won a national football title (USC in 2004), while the SEC has won 12 of the last 16 championships.

“I completely understand (moving to the Big Ten) from a financial and branding standpoint, on the Big Ten side and on the UCLA side, but the question now is logistics,” he said. said Bjork. “How (do you) manage your travels across the country? These are the questions that come to mind as a practitioner — I understand the business side — but now, how does this all work?

“It matters, and it should matter, in terms of student-athlete well-being… time commitment is a big issue and (travel) can have adverse consequences. …the wear and tear of that – it will be interesting to watch how they map all of that out.

brent.zwerneman@chron.com

Twitter: @brentzwerneman