Kentucky Nutter Training Facility received $158,000 in mostly cosmetic updates.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky football's Nutter Training Facility underwent a $158,000 makeover recently.
On Thursday, UK unveiled the upgrades to the media.
The tour of the facility was led by UK seniors LaRod King and Matt Smith.
According to UK officials, the project from inception to completion took about a year, but only two weeks to install.
Those two weeks of construction coincided, but not by coincidence, with the football players' usual break from organized team activities in late May/early June.
When the Wildcats returned from break, to their surprise, was a newly remodeled facility waiting for them.
Smith was among a small group to get a sneak preview. He was returning from a service trip to Ethiopia and the first thing he saw upon arriving back in Lexington - other than the airport and the inside of a car - was a new-look Nutter.
"Right when I got back from Africa, I got picked up at the airport and brought straight back (to Nutter)," Smith said. "Me, Mikie (Benton) and Larry (Warford) were probably the first three to see it of the players. It just blew us away. I was in here left and right taking pictures of everything and going home and showing my family."
The changes are mainly cosmetic. Walls that were once grey are now blue, white and silver, emblazoned with "Operation: Win" slogans, words from the UK fight song or images of current and past players.
This project is the eighth major facility upgrade in as many years.
"They're making those updates every year and it's really helping with recruiting," Smith said. "We've got a lot of good young guys that have come here that say that they love the way everything's laid out."
"They really spruced it up," Smith said. "They spent a lot of money and a lot of time doing this. It's really awesome that the coaches are doing this for us ... It shows a huge commitment."
"We've really talked to the seniors about stepping things up," Smith said. "We don't want another season like last year. We felt we got too comfortable and we got to be on our toes and keep everybody going as hard as they can."
King has already come to the sobering realization that this year is his final chance to suit up as a Wildcat, but that realization is also driving him.
"It's exciting and it's depressing at the same time," King said. "This is my last go-round, but at the same time, I'm going to go out with a bang."
Fall camp doesn't begin for over a month, but the team is already working with strength and conditioning coach Rock Oliver intensively.
"You don't see linemen running 60 yards down the field, so it doesn't make sense for us to go and do 100-yard sprints, 60-yard sprints when we could be working on our footwork and explosion off the ball," Smith said. "We really switched things up this year and we're hoping it will help on the field."
The first chance the Cats will have to show off their improvement will come against Louisville in a season-opening game that is already surrounded by plenty of hype almost three months before kickoff.
Smith, a Louisville native, knows all about the Governor's Cup and is already itching to play the Cardinals for the final time. He was relatively low-key throughout the tour, but he got excited in describing a wall dedicated to UK's in-state rival.
In answering questions after the tour, he was sure to clarify that the focus is on the season as a whole, but it's no coincidence he knows exactly how many days there are before Sept. 2.
"We have 78 days to prepare for them and to prepare for the rest of our season," Smith said. "We're taking things on ourselves. We're working on what we're going to do and when we get close to that game, we'll start working on them."
List of football facility projects in the last eight years:
· New locker room complex, consolidating the team into one locker room
· New playing surface
· New video boards and audio system
Nutter Field House
· New playing surface
Nutter Training Facility
· New practice field complex, including two grass fields, one artificial field and stadium lights
· New locker room
· New team and position meeting rooms, featuring state-of-the art video
· Redecoration of facility