Thad Turnipseed was sitting outside of Clemson’s brand new football operations facility Tuesday afternoon when he let out a hearty laugh as he took a look around.
There were the three gas fire pits and one wood-burning fireplace. There was a plush, football-shaped grass area for outdoor games, and an eating area for cookouts. There was the covered patio that seats 75 people. The outdoor kitchen, complete with two grills and a sink. A fountain. A space for a blowup 20-foot by 20-foot screen for late-night movies. Sand volleyball courts, a 9-hole putt-putt course, a covered basketball court — they were all there.
“I love the outdoor village, the player village,” a jovial Turnipseed said. “It’s by far my favorite part.”
In a matter of weeks every player on Clemson’s football team will be able to fully enjoy that outdoor village, as well as the dozens of other amenities the new facility is expected to offer.
Turnipseed, the director of recruiting and external affairs at Clemson, said the support staff was moving into Clemson’s new $55-million, 140,000-square foot football operations facility Wednesday. Dabo Swinney and the coaching staff are expected to follow suit Thursday. By Friday, the building will be fully functioning, and by mid February, players will be able to use it regularly.
In addition to the outdoor village, highlights of the Tigers’ new facility include an indoor HD theater, a barbershop, a golf simulator, laser tag, a bowling alley and an indoor slide. The Tigers also will have access to their own dining space and designated nap rooms, in addition to team meeting rooms and a recruiting room.
“We had a company come in this week who goes to every facility in the country,” Turnipseed said. “(One of the company employee’s) quote to me was, ‘Thad, this is the new A, and there’s not anybody else out there who’s a C or a C-minus.’ That’s coming from somebody who’s been everywhere.”
The university broke ground on the project in November 2015 and began construction a month later, Turnipseed said, though the designing process took about nine months.
The facility was funded by Clemson’s athletic department and IPTAY, Clemson’s 83-year-old scholarship fund and booster club organization. Board of Trustee member and Kiawah resident Bill Hendrix pledged a donation of $2.5 million early in the process.
“This was Dabo’s vision when he first hired me. Of course when you get a lot of people pulling in the same direction, you achieve great things,” said Turnipseed, who joined Clemson’s staff in 2013 after 11 years at Alabama.
“You’ve got Woody McCorvey who’s got 40 years in coaching football, you’ve got Dabo who’s been around it, you’ve got HOK architecture — the design architects. Then we hired some local architects out of Greenville — Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood — who of course they were all invested because they’re all Clemson grads.
“You put a lot of people together, it’s really not a job. It’s a passion that we love.”
Mike Farrell, the national recruiting director for Rivals.com, said it’s only a matter of time until other schools start to follow Clemson's lead.
“Kids love bells and whistles. We saw what Oregon was able to do with their state-of-the-art facilities and how they were able to recruit kids from all around the country,” Farrell said. “It’s a copy-cat world. Everybody looks at Dabo as the fun players' coach and Nick Saban as the grumpy Bill Belichick type. But Nick Saban’s not stupid. (When) kids start coming to Alabama and talk about what they have at Clemson, you’ll see it at Alabama within a year.”
Turnipseed gave kudos to all of the people who made Swinney’s vision possible, and said the project was made easier by the fact that so many people involved had a personal connection to Clemson. Specifically, he thanked Paul Borick, the university's project manager.
“It’s kind of like cooking,” Turnipseed joked. “You cook better for your kids than you do for strangers. And so it’s got a little bit of that mama’s love in it.”