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August 21, 2012
It's about a lot of things, this new $70 million McKay Center.
About taking care of athletes, getting them smart and strong and healthy and happy and well-fed and getting them together with one another and their coaches and it's for all 650 of them from 21 teams, as the striking entrance lobby mural from Malibu's El Matador Beach makes clear.
But it's about more than that, much more, says John Roberson, the CEO of Advent, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company hired to tell USC's story -- and the McKay story and so many others.
"Seventy stories in all," Roberson was saying on Tuesday's media tour before the 6 p.m. dedication for more than 500 special guests.
Because as much as you want them to meet one another, and get connected through the state-of-the-art computer labs that in contrast to McKay's Collegiate Romanesque outside, make for an all creative cutting-edge glass and openness inside, USC wanted them to get connected to something else.
But don't forget the gardens and patios and landscaping and turf field for the entire community, recreation, intramurals and the neighborhood that surrounds McKay.
They're all ways to connect everyone to the USC family of nearly 300,000 and to all their stories. And the one story. The Trojan story. And how they are part of it. Or will be when you factor in the way Lane Kiffin surely plans to use what he has here now.
Roberson's Advent has done more than 50 of these college jobs, most recently for the likes of Harvard, Mississippi State and Texas A & M. But after a solid year here with USC, and with all 40 employees on it, Roberson says USC is different.
"No place I'd ever been have they had so much of a story to tell and it's been so undertold," Roberson was saying of the Trojan story. "Now Oregon can fabricate and display a story and make it look great, but USC has a great story to tell."
And not just about its athletic program, or even football, but if that photo-mural of the 21 team reps on the beach doesn't get you going, nothing will. But try this. In the football section, there are these notes just about TV and USC:
* Seven of the 12 all-time top-rated TV games have involved USC.
* The 1968 USC-Notre Dame game is still the most-watched college football game ever.
* USC has hosted ESPN's GameDay eight times, more than anyone else.
* USC's 278 national TV games are the second-most all-time.
* USC's 20 ESPN GameDay games are fourth all-time.
But that's just one little slice of one wall. There is so much more. The four-times more space for weights and indoor training, the new full-time nutritionist hired over from UCLA, the three trainer's pools, the computerized training stations so sophisticated no one in the media could even ask a question about them and the 22 self-contained Hammer Strength multi-use weight stations, the indoor turf field, the auditorium with the LA skyline in the background and "WE OWN LA" across it.
But is that more impactful than a corridor wall filled with all the names of the USC doctors and their specialties and years with the program? Or the giant video wall in the main lobby that can be configured any way you want it.
Or the plaque that explains why the lobby is named for Parker Hughes and his family.
It says simply:
Our little man wanted to be a Trojan.
And now he is.
Just one of the many ways to tell the USC Family story.
As the flashing wall of TVs, 33 feet wide by 15 feet high, that notes the 117 national championships and the 418 Olympians and the 2,000-plus All-Americans, including the 159 football first-teamers portrayed in bronze on the All-American walk from McKay to Howard Jones Field, that all called Troy their home.
Or maybe it won't be the athletes. How about the 22,000-square feet of academics space, for computer labs to lounges, from meeting rooms to a place to ponder the Trojan Family photo album with the likes of first man on the moon Neil Armstrong and filmmakers George Lucas and John Singleton, from financier Mark Stevens to Public Storage's Wayne Hughes, from Jane Goodall, of chimpanzee research fame to Paul Revere-Williams, the self-described "Negro architect" of so much style and early impact. They're all here with stories to inspire.
As do those of Trojans like trustee Ed Roski and contractor Ron Tutor who helped this complex get from groundbreaking to dedication in less than 17 months.
Hard to know which way to go. Although another direction might be the wall-sized spring game photo mural, now so bittersweet, of the group they call the USC Ambassadors -- Lynn Swann, Ronnie Lott, Anthony Munoz, Marcus Allen, Willie McGinest, Tony Boselli and the late Junior Seau.
Although Lane Kiffin says he knows the way to go. Try the players lounge, next to a locker room so spectacular with its valuables safes and perfect acoustics and ionized air and space everywhere and names, numbers and hometowns of all the players permanently embossed in professional signage above them.
The hometowns? "Lane's idea," says project manager Mark Jackson, whose ability to get this done "under budget and on time" has earned him his own plaque of gratitude on the new sword in the stone at the public entrance to the All-American Walk.
Kiffin said he thinks for the moms of recruits, the one thing that will matter most "is the feel here," that this is a place you can leave your son or daughter and someone will be here to take care of them.
One sign may have said it best: "A Trojan is special and different in that we never leave one behind." -- Sam Cunningham
"It's a huge advantage," Kiffin said of the way this changes the recruiting game for USC. "Now not only have we caught up, we're ahead of everybody."
But that just takes us back to the place where the tour ends and it's the one special spot where the story and the Trojan family and USC all come together behind the eight-foot statue of a young, smiling John McKay overlooking the new Brittingham Family Field, and just beyond that, Howard Jones Field.
It's the portico area, with plaques recognizing John McKay, the Coach; John McKay the Legacy; and John McKay, the Man; with tributes to his family and his Trojan family that remembered him fondly again on this day.
It's a special place, this John McKay Center -- and this USC.
Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at email@example.com.