Murchie Family Fieldhouse opens
$18 million facility a ‘game changer,’ according to coaches
Six thousand tons of concrete, 9,000 tons of structural steel, three miles of cabling and wiring, and a year and a half of construction later, the Murchie Family Fieldhouse is finally open for use.
Construction workers broke ground on the fieldhouse in October 2017. The Bulls held their inaugural football practice on March 26. The 92,000-square-foot indoor practice facility is situated just beyond the north end zone of UB Stadium. The $18 million fieldhouse is funded solely through philanthropy and football revenue. UB did not use state funds for the project.
“To know that this day would happen and to get to this point, I wasn’t quite sure,” said football head coach Lance Leipold. “I’m awfully appreciative about the people that helped make it possible and it’s been awesome so far.”
Leipold arrived at UB in 2015 when the university was still developing and planning stages of the project. It took two years for that vision to become a reality.
Four seasons into Leipold’s career at UB, Leipold’s team and others no longer have to travel to off-campus facilities to practice and train. The football team previously trained at the ADPRO Sports Training Center in Orchard Park where the Bills play.
The fieldhouse has over 4 million cubic feet of indoor space, which matches the size of the best in the country.
Inside it features over 6,000 square feet of rubber track, a full football field with two goalposts, four motorized suspended softball hitting tunnels and two multi-level indoor filming/viewing towers at 24 and 36-feet high.
The fieldhouse will be available to every varsity athletic team, house university events, expand student recreation programming and used for intramurals.
“This is huge, this facility right here is big time,” said freshman football running back Jaret Patterson. “A lot of other programs have something like this and just having something like this is just going to help us.”
The fieldhouse is part of the 2014 Athletics master plan, when Danny White was the athletic director. The plan featured the fieldhouse, a new baseball stadium and a tennis center.
The original cost of the fieldhouse was estimated at $20 million and was expected to be 130,000 gross square feet. Athletics also planned a bridge connecting it to Alumni Arena.
Coaches and athletes have called the facility a “game changer.” It is supposed to help with recruiting and keeping teams better prepared during the winter when there is no outdoor practice space. Athletics anticipates this will reduce scheduling problems for facilities.
Now, teams can train inside of the facility and not be restricted to off-campus facilities, Alumni Arena or the Ed Wright Practice Facility.
“It’s a great feeling being in here and seeing the UB logos and Buffalo in the end zone,” Patterson said. “We’ve really got to soak this moment in because UB is really up and coming right now.”
Football, track and field, and softball have been the main users of the facility in its first week of opening. Patterson says that there is a different atmosphere being able to practice in the fieldhouse.
As UB football finished up practice on Thursday, a multitude of players stayed after with coaches, a luxury they didn’t have before, Leipold said. When his players first entered the facility, he described them with wide eyes and smiles on their faces.
The interior and fieldhouse structure is finished, but UB still needs complete the outside of the facility. Players have to walk along a makeshift sidewalk of plywood to enter the facility. Still, the facility itself was completed in its original anticipated time frame of spring 2019.
“It shows the commitment that our administration has made toward our athletic programs, not just ours,” Leipold said. “I think one of the biggest things that’s been surprising is that many recruits and coaches across the country saw we didn't have this. Now we can check off that box. We have the newest one in the Mid-American Conference and hopefully [that] will help boost recruiting and show any student athlete that they can obtain all their goals by coming here.”
Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NateMendelson