Anyone who drives on Route 422 to get to or from Youngstown State University will notice a huge structure being erected. That structure will be called the WATTS, as many of the local readers already know. Tim Stuart (above) will be in charge of many of the scheduling and personnel decisions as well as the day-to-day operations of the center. I recently got a chance to interview Stuart about the facility and learned many interesting points that I did not know.
Paneech: I called the new facility the WATTS Center when I first learned about the plans to build it, and Matt Morrone nearly took my head off correcting me. Why is it wrong to call this place the WATTS Center?
Stuart: WATTS stands for Watson and Tressel Training Site. So if you called it the WATTS Center, you would be calling it a training site center. It would get a little redundant, so we just call it the WATTS.
Paneech: How long before it opens and what will it be used for?
Stuart: We anticipate the facility not being used until May. With some of the inclement weather we have had this past Fall and so far, this Winter, things have gotten backed up a little bit. Once it opens, it will be used for all of our sports and we anticipate it being used 365 days a year. It will be used by recreation and intramural sports. There will be a 300 meter track, a 7500 square foot mezzanine on top of our offices that we will be utilizing for batting cages and stuff like that.
Paneech: Was the concept developed as a way to keep up with the Joneses or was it designed out of necessity?
Stuart: A little bit of both actually. It will most definitely be used as a recruiting tool against the Kents and Akrons. It is a great tool for us. Regardless of weather, it allows all of our athletes to train in a climate-controlled environment. If we get a week of rain in April, our baseball and softball teams can be in there practicing.
Paneech: The average distance of a centerfield fence is about 400, is there space for all that, or will it just be fungo and cages?
Stuart: There is netting that will be draped. The netting is so tight that you will not be able to hit a golf ball through it. It contains a full-length football field, or 120 yards from the back of one end zone to the back of the other end zone. Obviously, they will not be able to play a baseball game because it isn’t a full field, but many simulations can be accommodated by the great amount of space between the walls. Hitting, pitching, and fielding practice will be just like practicing outside.
Paneech: So how long before Hively Construction throws you guys the keys and says you can start moving in?
Stuart: We are still, a few months away. The in-ground heating is in. (*Note - The heat will be on the ground and move upward toward the ceiling not to lose much for optimum temperature control. ) We are almost done with the windows and once everything gets enclosed we will be able to really get rolling.
Paneech: Tell me what your role is.
Stuart: I have been appointed to be the manager of the facility. I will be overseeing the scheduling as well as coordinating what will simultaneously take place in Beeghly and Stambaugh. Whether that is scheduling practices, basketball events at Beeghly, football events at Stambaugh, or whatever is coming must be coordinated by us. With the renovation of Kilcawley Center, all three of these facilities are going to be used more than ever. We will be in charge of scheduling camps for our programs as well. In the past, camps have always been restricted to the two facilities and trying to coordinate intramural activities and regular practices was becoming more and more of a challenge. The WATTS will eliminate many of these overcrowding problems and time conflicts.
Paneech: Because it generates the most money traditionally, will football be the top priority or is there more of an even-split attitude about who gets first use of the facility?
Stuart: It is an all-sports facility. Obviously when football is in-season, it will take precedence over other sports, but it is so big that as long as there is coordination between the coaches, there will be enough room for multiple sports at any time. Football can be on the field having practice and baseball pitchers and hitters can be throwing and hitting on the mezzanine at the same time. We now can stretch things out a little with the extra facility so everyone will have a place for adequate practice times and conditions.
Tom Morella, the Assistant Athletic Director, spoke about the WATTS opening soon as well. ”I really can’t wait for the day we can get in there. It will make everything in the two existing buildings smoother as far as time commitments. It is a nightmare in Stambaugh and Beeghly Center some days because there just isn’t enough space for everything. This facility is a tremendous asset to not only the sports programs, but also for the students.