BLACKSBURG — The Jamerson Athletic Center was buzzing with activity long before Virginia Tech football players returned to campus at the end of May for the start of their summer conditioning program.
Work was taking place to transform the hallways and common areas of Tech’s football offices. Forty Nine Degrees, an Ohio-based design and manufacturing company, gave the area a major facelift in the space of a week.
The hallway walls are now covered with striking images of Virginia Tech football players past and present, while other “branding and imaging” elements were added to stress the program’s core values.
Top tier football programs across the country turn to Forty Nine Degrees to upgrade their athletic facilities. The company’s client list includes Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson and LSU. Company president Michael McClurg said recruiting is a big focus.
“It really has become about creating a sharable experience,” McClurg said. “You go with the mindset, if you didn’t take a picture and share it, it didn’t happen. That’s how these kids think. That’s where this whole thing is going. I think it’s going to come down to making stuff as neat and unique as possible.”
The one-stop shop doesn’t just add a coat of paint or put in some new flooring. Forty Nine Degrees works with FBS programs to create unique spaces, whether it’s an arena concourse, weight room or office space.
One look at Alabama’s Hall of Champions will give fans an idea of Forty Nine Degree’s innovative thinking.
The company developed digital visors inside helmets for a display highlighting Alabama players that went on to the NFL.
The company also created a custom ring display with a magnifying glass that allows visitors to see the program’s NCAA and SEC championship rings up close.
“Every client we go to we are pretty particular about not ever proposing the same thing,” McClurg said. “Each client wants to be unique and they are unique. They have a different story everywhere you go.”
The recent work Forty Nine Degrees did for Virginia Tech wasn’t quite as expansive, but the Hokies viewed the project as a “major upgrade.”
“Often times not only players are around there, but recruits also,” McClurg said. “There wasn’t an exact storyline. A lot of the projects that we get involved have very specific storylines or messages, but they wanted their core values — trust, loyalty and unity — to be represented and that was our big focus.”
While installers were only on campus for a week, six months of work went into the project with designers from Forty Nine Degrees collaborating with Virginia Tech’s football operations staff. McClurg said Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente signed off on the designs as the project came together.
Forty Nine Degrees’ trip to Blacksburg last month wasn’t the first time it was on campus. Virginia Tech previously hired the company to work on the athletic department’s Beamer-Lawson Indoor Practice Facility and to upgrade Cassell Coliseum’s locker room.
“I’m a huge basketball guy and I studied [former coach Buzz Williams] a lot,” McClurg said. “He’s very into values and quotes and reading. There were a lot of words, which is very atypical for that.
“A lot of coaching staffs use a locker room area to reinforce their messaging and also show recruits a taste of what’s it going to be like. There is obviously some glitz and glamour to it, but experienced coaches look at it as something very functional too.”