A Winning Culture at the University of Wyoming
Division I collegiate sports are fiercely competitive, relying on precision and execution for success. Athletes tax their bodies with grueling practices, drills, and scrimmages, all in the hopes of winning on game day. And for some competitors, altitude adds another level of complexity to the overall athletic experience.
Student-athletes at the University of Wyoming train and compete at 7,220 feet above sea level, the highest elevation of any Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program in the country. To prepare their bodies – and lungs – for competition, they train in a state-of-the art facility designed to help them achieve peak performance levels: the new Mick and Susie McMurry High Altitude Performance Center (HAPC). Every component – from academics, nutrition, strength and conditioning, to recovery, rehabilitation, and sports medicine – positions Wyoming’s athletic programs to regularly compete for championships within the Mountain West conference and to be successful nationally against the highest caliber opponents.
“This new facility is centered around winning. The success we’ve had the last few years helped contribute to this facility being built,” said Andrew Wingard, Preseason All-America Strong Safety and Senior Team Captain, University of Wyoming Football. “Now the features included in this building, like the training table and the new weight room, will help future Wyoming teams continue that winning tradition.”
Nick and Susie McMurry HAPC in Laramie, Wyoming by DLR Group. Photo by Kyle Spradley.
Its prominent location at the north end zone of War Memorial Stadium makes the HAPC a billboard for Wyoming Athletics, signaling to students and fans they have arrived at the heart of Cowboy and Cowgirl country. The HAPC, designed by DLR Group and local partner Pappas & Pappas Architects, officially opened in time to kick off the 2018 football season. The project includes a 47,000 SF renovation to the existing Curtis and Marian Rochelle Athletics Center, and a 71,000 SF addition to accommodate the HAPC. Both spaces now operate as a single facility.
“Not only is the Mick and Susie McMurry High Altitude Performance Center one of the finest athletic facilities in the country, it also has served to connect our student-athletes in a way we previously weren’t able to,” said Tom Burman, University of Wyoming Director of Athletics. “From the training table, to the strength and conditioning areas, to the social areas within the building, the High Altitude Performance Center has provided an atmosphere where student-athletes from all of our teams have many more opportunities to interact with one another.”
Nick and Susie McMurry HAPC locker room in Laramie, Wyoming by DLR Group. Photo by Fred Fuhrmeister.
Planning and Preparation
Similar to the ups and downs of an athletic season, the journey to reach the design solution was filled with twists and turns that ultimately defined the final project. A large roster of nearly 20 team members contributed to the overall success, including individuals from the University Foundation, administration, athletics, academic training, facilities departments, food service, and sports medicine, to state representatives such as the Governor and senate and house members. Working in concert with designers, these participants united to prioritize requirements, develop a vision, and ensure the facility would meet the needs of the more than 400 student-athletes in Laramie, Wyoming.
“There is a sign in the building with a phrase Mick McMurry always believed in – it reads ‘One Wyoming’. This building truly is a representation of that,” said Coach Bohl, University of Wyoming Head Football Coach. “All different groups of people – Governor Matt Mead, the Senate, the House, the University of Wyoming Foundation, and athletic supporters – came together to make this project a reality. It certainly has a big impact on football, but there is no doubt it benefits all of our student-athletes.”
From July to October 2015 DLR Group led an intense planning process that involved five in-person planning meetings with the entire team, as well as individual sessions with academics, nutrition, sports medicine, and strength training to better understand the amenities each unique program needed to work efficiently and effectively with student-athletes. In addition, University officials visited premier athletic facilities around the country. They traveled to Kansas State University, University of Nebraska, University of Oregon, University of Utah, and the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado to build a baseline of the features they wanted for their student-athletes in the HAPC.
Designers devoted a significant amount of time listening to individual stakeholders as each expressed which elements they believed would benefit all Wyoming athletic programs. From these listening exercises, the design team was able to prioritize needs versus wants, with valuable input from the athletic director, whose tenure at Wyoming allowed for an in-depth understanding of what’s important to Wyoming Athletics.
The high number of stakeholder voices in the process was, at times, challenging, but resulted in a better facility for users. The HAPC was not designed to a single vision; rather, it was created by cohorts working together for a specific purpose: to enhance the student-athlete experience at Wyoming. The result is a functional, cohesive solution that ties together ideas and concepts from all stakeholders, with modern amenities for student-athletes on the inside, and traditional Wyoming stone on the exterior that seamlessly integrates the building with the surrounding campus.
Nick and Susie McMurry HAPC interior in Laramie, Wyoming by DLR Group. Photo by Fred Fuhrmeister.
Enhancing the Student-Athlete Experience
“The High Altitude project has exceeded all of our expectations. We feel that we have a facility that can train our student-athletes at a high level for the next 20 years,” said Coach Bohl. “As we were involved in the planning of this facility, we looked to meet the needs of our student-athletes in all areas important to their development, from providing academic resources to help them succeed in the classroom, to meeting their nutritional and strength and conditioning needs by providing a first-class sports medicine area.”
Nick and Susie McMurry HAPC recovery pool in Laramie, Wyoming by DLR Group. Photo by Fred Fuhrmeister.
Amenities on the first level include two weight rooms (one dedicated to football, the other dedicated to Olympic sports), a sports medicine area, equipment storage area, football locker room, and a player lounge. The second level houses an academic center, training table, and renovated football coaching offices and meeting rooms. A theater-style team meeting room that spans the first and second floors creates a customized learning environment for the entire football squad and other teams who need a top-of-class gathering area to review film and discuss strategy.
Nick and Susie McMurry HAPC team meeting space in Laramie, Wyoming by DLR Group. Photo by Fred Fuhrmeister.
“The new facility shows just how much our program has developed since we first got here,” said Nico Evans, Running Back and Senior Team Captain, University of Wyoming Football. “It has contributed to our athletic growth in a lot of different ways. In every aspect of our lives as student-athletes, this new facility has helped us grow and develop.”
Nick and Susie McMurry HAPC training table in Laramie, Wyoming by DLR Group. Photo by Fred Fuhrmeister.
University officials understand that a healthy body starts with proper nutrition. In keeping with this principle, the modern training table offers three to four meals per day for all student-athletes. It also provides space for casual and small group dining.
“The training table and nutrition programs that we provide our student-athletes, including two registered dieticians, a chef, and full-time dedicated staff, are second to none,” said Burman.
Overlooking Jonah Field, the front of the dining area is on full display, and is especially visible when it’s lit up in the evening. Massive windows give student-athletes a front row view onto the field and allow fans to see inside the highly energetic space. The training table also creates new and improved game-day hospitality and revenue-generating opportunities where the University can host fans, donors, and other athletic supporters throughout the year.Nick and Susie McMurry HAPC weight room in Laramie, Wyoming by DLR Group. Photo by Fred Fuhrmeister.
Designated Weight Rooms
A signature element of the HAPC is an impressive 12,000 SF strength and conditioning area that also overlooks Jonah Field and is designed specifically for football training. Its prominent placement on the ground level offers live and TV audiences a glimpse into the heart of Wyoming football through expansive windows that show off the state-of-the-art lifting equipment, plyometric stair and ramp, sand pit, and synthetic turf sprint lanes used to create “Cowboy Tough” athletes.
The existing weight room was remodeled and is now dedicated to Olympic sports training, a solution that accommodates improved scheduling for all Wyoming teams. Allocating weight rooms to specific users enhances the student-athlete experience and allows Olympic sports programs to train in more ideal conditions.
Nick and Susie McMurry HAPC in Laramie, Wyoming by DLR Group. Photo by GE Johnson.
Academics & Rehabilitation
A key component of DLR Group’s design involved bringing the existing academic center up to today’s standards to better serve student-athletes’ educational needs. The new academic center, which is more than double the size of the previous center, houses counselors, tutoring areas, and a computer lab to provide effective study spaces for student-athletes.
In addition to a larger academic center, the new facility houses increased space dedicated to sports medicine, providing student-athletes the opportunity to receive a higher level of care. The expanded and updated sports medicine area is accessible by all student-athletes to treat injuries and keep their bodies in peak physical condition throughout the year. It is centrally located within the HAPC and features larger taping, treatment, and rehab areas, as well as additional diagnostic, office, and support facilities that were not available in the previous configuration. In addition, a pair of 40-foot long recovery pools allow student-athletes to begin the recovery process immediately after intense workouts.
“The commitment to excellence represented by this building demonstrates to our current student-athletes and recruits that we are serious about providing them the best resources to achieve their goals both academically and athletically,” said Burman.