August 30, 2009

Wild West Wonder: Players love new facility

Now fully completed, it stands there, much like the scene from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the towering, black monolith suddenly appears, seemingly changing everything you previously thought about everything.

While the new West End Zone of Boone Pickens Stadium serves to connect the other parts of the facility and provide many new functions for the program, it could definitely be considered a monolith of sorts, towering over OSU football, Stillwater, the Big 12 and even the national college landscape.

It other words, it's a pretty big deal and the fact that it is now online for Cowboy football to utilized is definitely a game-changer.

Just ask the players what they think about their new digs.

"Everything over there is completely different, all the way down to the light switches and locks on the doors," said wide receiver Justin Blackmon. "Everything is a little more high-tech over there and more comfortable and a lot bigger. There's a lot more space - it's easy to get lost there. It's really, really nice."

Speaking of getting lost…

"It took me an entire week just to figure out which way to walk out of my locker to get to the field and which way to get anywhere," Noah Franklin said.

While the structure serves as a way to unite both sides of the stadium, creating new creature comforts for fans, its main mission was to become the new home to OSU football's operational aspects. With coaches' offices and team meeting rooms up above, most of the really important parts of the project are based on the field level, where the team has 146,000 square feet allocated toward the locker room, strength and conditioning center, sports medicine center, theater and even a cozy stall for Bullet.

It's all there for the players, all the time.

"During our break on two-a-days, we usually go home because we have nowhere to sleep or anything," Ugo Chinasa said. "But this year a lot of people are staying and just hanging in the locker room, watching TV and sleeping on the couches."

"It's unbelievable," quarterback Brandon Weeden said. "It's so big that you almost have to make a U just to get anywhere. You have to walk 300 yards to get anywhere (in there). But it's nice. We're very fortunate to have it. Mr. Pickens invested in us because he thought we had a chance to win. And it's going to pay off. If I was 18 years old when I was a recruit coming in and I saw that locker room and facility, it'd be very, very tough to not want to come to Oklahoma State."

Making current players comfortable was important to how everything was laid out in the project, but it's also proven to be a big boon on the recruiting side. Head coach Mike Gundy told media a few weeks ago about recruits coming to Stillwater just wanting to see the West End Zone with little interest in OSU, but that after they left they had an entirely different opinion on the program.

It makes sense, considering that this structure has few rivals, college or pro. While other programs might catch up to what OSU has done, for the moment, the Cowboys can offer amenities not many places can offer.

"It's unreal just how big it is," Andre Sexton said. "Everything is so spread out and the facilities are so beautiful. I don't even think if fans were to walk through it they'd be like 'What is this, one of the nicest restaurants in the country?' and it's just our training table.

"Everything that they have put together for us over there is going to be great for us and for recruiting. I'm just so glad I'm able to experience it my last year because they've been talking about it for so long and so many players never got to experience it."

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