As the N.C. State Wolfpack looks to fight its way through the ACC Atlantic Division, it will do so with some fresh new digs.
The Close-King indoor practice facility, a privately funded $14 million project, opened in June and already has players excited about the possible benefits.
“I love it,” senior running back Shadrach Thornton said Wednesday after the Wolfpack finished an hour-long practice at the new facility. “To become a championship team, you gotta have championship things, and this is one of those things.”
Later in the day the team took part in the second annual Lift for Life event, which raised money for leukemia research in honor of former offensive coordinator Dana Bible.
The facility, which features a full-length field complete with goal posts, has 15 retractable windows, a viewing platform for coaches and a ceiling high enough that it rarely affects punts.
David Grinnage, a junior tight end, said coaches have not told the team if they will exclusively practice in the new facility, but he expects to share time between the outside and indoor fields.
“We can’t run away from the sun all the time,” Grinnage said. “We can’t do that.”
But in cases of extreme weather, the Wolfpack will no longer be obligated to alter its practice schedule.
“No days off,” Thornton said. “No days off. Weather is (no longer) a factor. We can come in here and play in artificial weather and do what we’ve got to do and take care of business.”
Coach Dave Doeren, speaking from this week’s ACC Kickoff in Pinehurst, was also excited about the practical benefits the facility would provide.
“You don’t have to have a rain plan anymore,” Doeren said. “Whatever we say we’re going to do, we’re going to do.”
Doeren also noted the enclosed area would allow his kickers to stay sharp through the winter.
While the facility didn’t play much of a role in the recruiting processes of Thornton and Grinnage, who both came to N.C. State while Tom O’Brien was coach, Thornton said he expects the new building to play dividends down the road.
“Not many (colleges) can have an indoor facility. That’s one of the ways that we can kind of separate ourselves from the other schools,” Thornton said.
Simply having a flashy facility, however, won’t be enough to carry the Wolfpack to a winning season.
“It’s what we do in it,” Thornton said. “That’s the big picture.”