Athletics seeks approval for $6.9 million renovation of the Lepley Sports Center

Oakland University’s Athletic Center has a dirty little secret — the Lepley Sports Center.

Connected to the polished Athletic Center and Recreation Center, Lepley seems like a parasite — a blob of storage space and an empty swimming pool. The athletics department hopes to change that with a $6.9 million facelift.

“We envision this as a flip the house,” Jeffrey Konya, director of athletics, said. “The space is good.”

The department wants to repurpose the center to include a basketball practice court, two classrooms, a nutrition area, offices and an athlete lounge.

Konya explained that the renovation goes along with the department’s goal of enhancing the student-athlete experience. Teams would get more practice time and student-athletes would have their own space.

The basketball practice court would them to train during the summer when the O’rena is used for high school graduations and other events. Last summer, Konya estimated that the court in the O’rena wasn’t available to OU teams 70 percent of the time. Most summers aren’t as bad, but practice time is still lost.

With the practice court, the O’rena would be available for outside events all summer, which could generate more revenue for the university.

The classrooms would be used for classes during the day and athlete meetings at night.

The offices would help to unclog staff space. Some offices in the Athletics Center house up to five staffers, Konya said.

The lounge is crucial to enhancing the student-athlete experience.

“Our student-athletes don’t have a place to call home,” Konya said.

“We only have one space for everybody,” Padraic McMeel, senior associate athletics director for external relations, said.

Student-athletes hang out in the halls or locker rooms, encouraging teams to keep to themselves, Konya and McMeel said.

“The lounge allows for them to all intermingle,” McMeel said.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this proposal is that it puts OU’s athletic department on the same level as its competition.

“It lets us get back to even,” Konya said.

Peer universities already have what this renovation has to offer.

Konya presented the idea to the facilities committee at their meeting on Sept. 28. While $6.9 million sounds like a lot of money, the renovation is by far the least expensive of the four ideas that were presented, which ranged in cost estimated from $32 million to $77 million. The renovation is much cheaper than the other project ideas because the building already exists.

Next the department has to present a request for proposal to the facilities committee, which will include blueprints, renderings and a more specific cost.

The department is looking for potential donors.

The Lepley Sports Center was built in 1962 and hasn’t been used for a decade.

The best part is that the athletic department will barely be affected during construction, McMeel said. The project is estimated to take about four to six months and won’t interfere with practices. Only the track team’s locker room will have to be temporarily relocated.

“It’s not a massive disruption,” McMeel said.