When University of Richmond football players report for the team’s first preseason practice Friday, they’ll be greeted by a new locker room, a new strength-and-conditioning area, a new sports-medicine area and numerous amenities that weren’t present last year.

The $7 million renovation of the Robins Center ground floor began in January, is through its primary phase, and created the Student-Athlete Performance Center, which benefits all Spiders’ sports.

The football locker room is much larger than its predecessor and includes flat-screen TVs, video game stations and lounges. It’s adjacent to greatly enhanced sports-medicine and strength-and-conditioning areas.

As workers put the finishing touches on the locker room Wednesday afternoon, second-year coach Russ Huesman walked through to observe the new comforts of the Spiders’ home.

“It’s incredible. It seems like everything they do facility-wise [at UR] is first-class, and this is no different,” Huesman said. “Our players have been coming in and out through the summer, checking it out. They’re just amazed at the facility they get now.”

The project puts Richmond more in line with its CAA Football rivals, James Madison and William & Mary. Those schools have football-support buildings that include locker rooms, sports medicine areas, and strength-and-conditioning areas, in addition to office spaces and meeting spaces. UR has its football offices and meeting rooms on another Robins Center floor.

Huesman sees the major renovation at the Robins Center as a demonstration of the school’s commitment to athletics, in general, and football, in particular. He said he appreciates the changes to the football operation mostly because they upgrade “the quality of life for our players.”

The former football locker room, which the Spiders used for summer workouts, and other Robins Center areas will now be renovated to create a new equipment room and coaches’ locker rooms. That’s part of the project’s second phase.

John Hardt, UR’s vice president and athletics director since January, credited David Walsh, the Spiders’ deputy athletic director, for leading the facilities-improvement effort. Hardt characterized the project as “a complete overhaul” when compared to what was previously in the spaces.

“Probably most exciting to me as a new [athletics director] is talking to the student-athletes, and getting their impressions. They’ve been off-the-charts positive,” Hardt said. “They couldn’t be more excited. It’s a game-changer.”

The Robins Center opened in 1972, and there have been several renovations of various areas apart from the arena, but nothing as extensive as this project. The school completed a $17 million renovation of the Robins Center arena for the 2013-14 season.

Richmond’s on-campus Robins Stadium, built for $25 million, opened in 2010.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6233

@RTDjohnoconnor

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