How Purdue’s Football Performance Complex is Engineered for Efficiency

September 12, 2017 / Brooke Craig

Purdue University has built a reputation on building things, incredibly complex things, but its student-athletes’ most precious resource can’t be manufactured.

That resource is time, of course. Life in the world of Big Ten football demands plenty of it. So when we started master planning the future of the program with administration, coaches and staff, a two-part goal emerged:

  1. Bring time on the side of student-athletes
  2. Put that newly-found time to good use

The recently-opened Purdue University Football Performance Complex quickly rose as a priority on both those fronts. Historically, members of the team shuffled back and forth between a handful of buildings over the course of a day. Time in transit stole away valuable minutes, while a space crunch left the team short on lockers and improvising meeting space at times.

Before we could unite everyone under one roof and give them the tools to excel, we had to find a location for the new home of Purdue football. More importantly, we needed to translate the site’s quirks into qualities.

A few yards to the northeast of Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium lies the football team’s practice fields. A narrow strip of grass separates the indoor field from the outdoor turf, a sliver of space many thought too small for any significant structure.

The more we thought about it, however, the more we realized the potential of the space between the practice fields. It was perfectly positioned as a hub, one the team could use to train their minds and bodies before putting it all together on the fields sitting feet away. With the site selected, we got to work embracing its footprint.

The new complex is the first thing you see as you approach Purdue’s campus from the north. Among the qualities that immediately draw the eye are a distinctly Purdue palate of old gold and black along with a bold roof line that stretches east to west.

The layout acts as a perfect example of form following function. The three-story building is long and linear as a matter of necessity. While some might leave things at that, we designed an uplifting roof inspired by the university’s history as an aviation and astronautic pioneer. The resulting roof resembles two planes in flight and pays homage to Purdue alumni like Neil Armstrong.

“By weaving together program history with their aspirations for the future, the Performance Complex is a true home for Boilermaker football and a place where they can create a new era for football,” says Sherri Privitera, Populous principal in charge for the project.

Once inside, a grand entrance welcomes visitors and tells the history of Purdue football before giving way to the team’s secure inner spaces. A team hall runs along the north side of the structure and acts as its spine, connecting team spaces on the lower level, meeting rooms in the middle and administrative offices above that.

Simplifying the flow of traffic was only the beginning. To help the team maximize its potential, we needed to bring them together in new ways.

The complex’s 20,900-square-foot weight room is a strength coach’s dream space, boasting enough room and strategically-positioned equipment to train the entire team at the same time. Justin Lovett, Purdue’s director of strength and conditioning, has never had that luxury before. The impact on comradery is obvious in a sport used to dividing schedules up by positions.

The collaboration shifts into high gear when you turn the focus from the players to the staff that supports them. We intentionally wove together sports medicine and nutrition spaces with the weight room. Their respective staff leads and Justin share equipment, players’ time and, most importantly, ideas.

“Our needs may differ a little by department but we all share the same goal,” says Justin. “Better serving our players starts with better communicating – and Populous’ design encourages that.”

With the complex officially open for business, the team is getting acquainted with its new home and the place’s impact beyond West Lafayette. The Big Ten conference is in the midst of a transformation, one headlined by recent expansion, the growing Big Ten Network and an emphasis on facilities.

Purdue, one of the conference’s original members, now has time on its side and stands toe-to-toe with its peers in performance training. The coaching staff has already seen recruits start to take notice.  We’re honored to continue work with Purdue on the football master plan.


Meet the author

Brooke Craig

Associate Principal, Architect / Kansas City


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