June 16, 2011
By Jon Cooper
O’Keefe Gym is the reason one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
With the Georgia Tech Athletic Administration’s recent refurbishing of the facility, that book gets better and better the further you get into it.
O’Keefe, which has been the home of Yellow Jackets Volleyball since 1996, recently went through Phase Two of its restoration and Volleyball Head Coach Tonya Johnson couldn’t be prouder.
“I was actually impressed with the team player lounge and the locker room (aka Phase One) because that was fairly new,” said Johnson, who was hired at Georgia Tech in January of 2009, shortly after Phase One was completed. “I told [Assistant Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator] Theresa [Wenzel] when I took the job that I wanted Phase Two to happen hopefully within the first two to three years that I was here. She said that was something that we could definitely work on and it came true a lot sooner than I thought it would.”
Johnson’s pride in the facility is topped only by her gratitude to the athletic administration.
“[Director of Athletics] Dan [Radakovich] has been awesome, Theresa has been awesome,” she said. “They’ve been very, very supportive in everything that we’ve done with this program and in even more testament to their commitment to us, is the addition of Phase Two. I told my staff, In my opinion, we’ve gotten more in two years than most people get in five to seven years at their places of employment.”
Where Phase One, begun five years earlier, spruced up of the players’ greeting area, the players’ lounge, which features sofas, game stations for Wii and Rockband and a computer area (“the Facebook station” as Johnson jokingly named it) — and the fixing up of the William Thomas Smith, Jr. locker rooms, Phase Two focused on preparation and training facilities and guest locker rooms.
The newly reconstructed area begins with a hallway connecting the locker room to the training area that features a graphic mural hanging on the wall.
Highlighted on the mural is a gorgeous Sam Morgan photo taken from behind junior outside hitter Monique Mead, with Mead in full swing (see http://ramblinwreck.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/geot-w-volley-body.html, the “Welcome To Mo!” story) as well as pictures of other Tech standouts. In the background is a row of fans in the Old O’Keefe, who standing together spell out “Point Tech” across their chests.
At the end of the hallway, is the new training room, which Johnson boasted is probably double the space of the current area. More important, it’s located within the volleyball team’s facility.
Johnson’s favorite addition to Phase Two is the video room, which seats 18 in theater-seating style.
Phase Two also focused on improving the visitors’ locker room. The space can be closed off into separate rooms for multi-team tournaments.
“They’re two times better than what we had,” Johnson said. “Any ACC team will tell you that.”
The area leading from the locker rooms to the O’Keefe floor also were brightened, with a new floor installed and the walls re-painted.
Johnson believes that the additions, all of which will be fully functional when the team starts practice in August, have made a nice selling point to recruits.
“They’re amazed that a volleyball program has this type of space that’s very, very nice and that the kids can relax in and study in,” she said. “Most important, they’re impressed with the video room.
“I think it’s a HUGE, HUGE recruiting tool for us because it makes an impression on the kids and their parents but it also lets them know that our administration cares about our program.”
Johnson can’t speak enough about that commitment in revitalizing not only volleyball but all of Tech athletics.
“I think one of the great things about Dan, he’s a facilities guy,” said Johnson. “He’s about making our facilities first-class facilities so we can compete with the Joneses and we can get the best of the best in regards to recruits. I think he’s seen that and he’s done some major, major improvements to our facilities since he’s been our athletic director. That’s a complement to him and his vision for our athletic department for us to have the best facilities to compete in.”
Now that Phase Two is complete, it’s on to the next phase, which is restoring the inside of O’Keefe, specifically the lobby where fans enter the arena.
Johnson also has plans for Phase Four.
“Phase Four is the trophy case. The goal is to win an ACC Championship,” she said. “It’s a big commitment that our administration has made to us. As I told my staff, now we have to win, more.”
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