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Construction projects bring new look to Rocket facilities

04/24/2016, 12:53am EDT

$6M going toward work on Glass Bowl, Savage Arena

Construction projects bring new look to Rocket facilities

The Joe Grogan Room is slated for expansion inside Savage Arena at the University of Toledo. The lounge is a key site for Toledo fund-raising events. The expansion will also allow the school to host outside events. THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

Before the University of Toledo can begin new football or basketball seasons, the Rockets have a construction season to complete first.

UT contracted renovation work on its two most high-profile athletics facilities, the Glass Bowl and Savage Arena, plus a replacement of its artificial playing surface at the Glass Bowl.

For the renovation projects, UT chose Cleveland-based Osborn Engineering to perform the architectural work on its football and basketball facilities. The contract between the two parties, obtained by The Blade through a public records request, stipulates a construction budget of $4.6 million.

The UT department of athletics plans to self-fund the facilities upgrades, which it projects to cost roughly $6 million.

Work for all three projects is ongoing simultaneously, work that changes the look of UT’s facilities by the day.

“That’s what’s so cool about what’s going on: Every day, there’s something new with the projects,” said Tim Warga, UT’s assistant athletics director for operations and events.

At the Glass Bowl, all the construction focuses on the east side of the stadium, which runs along Stadium Drive. The renovation will refurbish the exterior of the stadium, create a ticket booth, and add new restrooms and concessions facilities.

For years, UT director of athletics Mike O’Brien has sought to update the outer portion of the east side, which faces the university’s student recreation facility and runs along one of the busier areas of campus.

“Granted, it’s the football stadium, but there are students and families who walk up and down Stadium Drive Monday through Friday,” O’Brien said. “That [previous] look has not been very attractive. That’s something we wanted to get done for some time. It’s great to see it happening.”

Toledo also is replacing its FieldTurf surface, which it originally installed in 2008. According to the contract between UT and FieldTurf, the school will pay $514,862.17 for the new surface. UT earned a $29,205 discount by saving the in-fill — a blend of silica sand and cryogenic rubber — from the previous field.

At Savage Arena, construction calls for creation of new offices on the concourse level for the men’s and women’s basketball staffs and an expansion to the Joe Grogan Room, a lounge enclosed by glass.

The expansion also allows for the possible addition of a training table, which UT estimates will feed 400 athletes.

“I think it shows a tremendous amount of support from our administration,” men’s basketball coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “The Grogan Room is an important piece to our fund-raising, and we’re going to add a training table, which nobody in the Mid-American Conference has but we will have.

“It’s much-needed as far as the office space for the athletic department. We’re also going to add a film room in there. It’s going to be great, and we’re really appreciative and excited about it.”

O’Brien said the expansion to the Grogan Room allows for Savage Arena to play host to even more outside events. Warga said UT often receives requests for large events that seat around 200 people. With the expansion, he said UT should be able to accommodate those type of events without using the basketball floor.

UT undertook a $30 million overhaul that turned Savage Hall into Savage Arena in 2008, a project that soon will come off the books, freeing an additional revenue stream for the current project.

“We’re doing well,” O’Brien said of fund-raising. “This is the last year we have to pay for the Savage renovation [from 2008], and so we’ll use the suite money and other resources for this project as well.”

The Glass Bowl, the iconic Works Progress Administration structure completed in 1937, has not seen a major renovation to the structure since 1990, when the university constructed a second level of seats, a three-level press tower, and its Larimer Athletic Complex.

O’Brien said the Glass Bowl will be ready in time for the Rockets’ first home football game, Sept. 10 against Maine. Savage Arena’s upgrade should be completed in September or October, he said.

OSports, the division of Osborne Engineering that focuses on stadiums, is handling the renovation work, which is on schedule for the 2016-17 sports seasons.

“We tasked them with starting last fall to get things done. We have not an aggressive timeline, but a fast-moving timeline,” Warga said. “They’ve been great and responsive and able to meet our every request.”

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at:, 724-6110, or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz

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Tag(s): College  Toledo