Some college locker rooms — such as the Notre Dame football team’s iconic space — carry a certain mystique, serving as a place of legends and traditions.
As Loyola builds new traditions for its men’s basketball program, which included a meteoric Final Four run two seasons ago, the school has built a new locker room that, officials say, reflects and, hopefully, will help propel a team already on the rise.
The construction project started in 2017 and only recently wrapped up in August. It was a collective effort between the men’s basketball head coach, Porter Moser, as well as Loyola’s deputy director of athletics, Holly Strauss-O’Brien, and a design team from The Maude Group, a creative firm that was hired onto the project.
Located on the first floor of Norville Center for Intercollegiate Athletics, the men’s basketball locker room is just one of 11 private locker rooms in the building. Not only is it the biggest locker room, but was the only one to be renovated. It’s a multi-functional space — exclusively for the men’s basketball team — that includes a film room and dressing room.
“Every single picture was hand-picked because it tells a story.”
Design and production started shortly after the men’s basketball season ended in spring 2019 and finished promptly to make it available for the players before the new school year started. Athletics revealed the new space to the team Aug. 25, the same day the Alfie Norville Practice Facility officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
According to CFO Wayne Magdziarz, the remodel cost $238,000. He said the funding came from both the department of athletics and a men’s basketball gift account.
Walking into the room, an assortment of graphics scattering the walls jumps out. The first image seen is former players Ben Richardson, Donte Ingram, Marques Townes and junior center Cameron Krutwig huddled together celebrating Ingram’s game-winning buzzer beater against University of Miami in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“Every single picture was hand-picked because it tells a story,” Moser said.
The film room is to the right of the entrance. Three rows of chairs face two dry-erase boards and a TV monitor, used to review film and go over plays. Strauss-O’Brien said the pictures covering the walls exude passion, hard work, energy, championship and winning.
She was the project manager of the locker room and the liaison between Moser and The Maude Group. While the project started before Strauss-O’Brien was hired at Loyola in 2018, she said she’s been focused on making the locker room better for the players.
“It needed to be updated, from technology to just graphics in general,” Strauss-O’Brien said. “Obviously coming off of the success of the Final Four run we’re just always looking to up the standard of our brand and tell the story of what we’re about.”
While the space is meant to be functional, it’s also meant to showcase the passion and human element of the team, said Joe Maude, principal of The Maude Group. Nostalgia hits the players as they walk into the room. Junior guard Lucas Williamson said looking at all the pictures was like reliving all those moments featured, and specifically highlighted the Ramblers’ run to the Final Four.
“The first thing you see when you walk in is the new graphics,” Williamson said. “You see the celebration from when [Ingram] hit that shot [against Miami] and instant nostalgia walking in. You look around and see all the pictures of us and moments that players are showing all this emotion and you just think about it and you’re like, ‘Wow.’”
Directly past the picture of four Ramblers celebrating lies the dressing room. Lining both walls are sets of lockers with every players’ name on it. Three lockers are situated on the end — one reads “future Rambler.” Giving this locker a name is a recruiting technique for the team, according to Strauss-O’Brien. By showing the recruit that locker, it allows them to picture themselves on the team.
“Coach [Moser] was talking about how it symbolizes our foundation. Without bricks, the whole building comes down. Now you look at our culture wall and you’re like, ‘Okay, this is our foundation.’ It’s a lot more symbolism than the old locker room.”
-Lucas Williamson, junior guard
“[The goal was to make] the locker room a high-level place, as our student-athletes deserve, but also for recruiting purposes as well,” Strauss-O’Brien said. “Being able to walk in and tell the story of the program from the ‘63 championship to the Final Four run to the two ‘Players of the Year’ in the [Missouri Valley Conference].”
Scenes of downtown Chicago and the success of the past three years sit above the top of the lockers. Moser’s famous “Wall of Culture” is featured perpendicularly to the lockers — an aspect that was non-negotiable for the head coach.
Built brick-by-brick from floor to ceiling are 85 different phrases that surmise the building blocks of the team. The idea of a “Wall of Culture” was carried from past locker rooms, but is now more organized, according to Williamson. The terminology didn’t change, just the layout and design.
Phrases including “Trust the process,” “The ball will find you,” “Economy of motion,” and “Post a man; not a spot” fill each brick to make up the wall — all headlined by the team’s mantra: created by culture.
“They’re bricks now,” Williamson said. “Coach [Moser] was talking about how it symbolizes our foundation. Without bricks, the whole building comes down. Now you look at our culture wall and you’re like, ‘Okay, this is our foundation.’ It’s a lot more symbolism than the old locker room.”
The bricks not only line the entire wall, but expand and wrap around into the film room.
The players didn’t even know what the new room would look like, it was a complete surprise. Williamson said they knew it was being redone, but didn’t know any specifics. When it was unveiled, he said it was a sight to behold.
— Loyola Men’s Basketball (@RamblersMBB) August 26, 2019
“Everybody was just shocked as to the graphics,” Williamson said. “No one really knew what was going on. We weren’t allowed to see the work in progress over the summer. The new guys had the same reaction as us.”
The project was a huge success, according to Strauss-O’Brien. She said the players love it, the coaches love it and it’s quickly become a favorite place to hang out for the team.