The University of Southern Florida's new athletics center features state-of-the-art hydrotherapy equipment and high-efficiency water heaters that help bring it to a level "equal to or better than" most NFL facilities, according to the project manager.

The University of South Florida (USF) has made the move to the Big East Conference. To help the USF Bulls prepare for competition in their new conference, the university built a brand new athletics center. The $18-million facility represents a significant portion of the $100 million invested in physical improvements to the school's main campus in Tampa since 1996.

With more than 41,000 students, USF is the second largest university in the Southeast and one of the 20 largest in the nation. Six hundred student athletes use the new intercollegiate athletics center, which first opened its doors in May 2004. The 105,000-sq-ft facility is entirely new construction. Previously, the bulk of the athletics department's equipment and training rooms were housed in trailers and in the basement of the USF Sun Dome. "We were in need of a major upgrade before we joined the Big East," said Ray Gonzalez, project manager for the Department of Facilities Management and Construction at USF. "The new USF Intercollegiate Athletics Facility is state-of-the art. It provides our sports programs with a definite competitive edge over the competition."

R.R. Simmons Construction, Design/Builders, Brady & Anglin Consulting Engineers, and USF collaborated on the D-B project. Two Lochinvar Copper-Fin II® water heaters were chosen to provide hot water to all locker rooms, bathrooms, and washing facilities, as well as to the hydrotherapy area of the athletics center. The design also employed a 5,000-gal Lock-Temp® storage tank. Sports teams using the building include football, baseball, soccer, tennis, and track and field.

Lochinvar equipment is not the only HVAC equipment used for the athletics center. The building is fed with chilled water from the university's central plant. These chilled water lines provide individual McQuay AHUs distributed throughout the first floor. Separate zones and user groups are then fed from the individual air handlers.

Walls in the way

Lochinvar's Copper-Fin II water heaters are the only water heaters in the building. "The only road block was the exterior pre-cast walls," said Bill Holster, project manager with R.R. Simmons Construction. "We worked with a scheduled installation and installed the equipment prior to finishing construction."

Holster pointed to USF's state-of-the-art hydrotherapy equipment as one reason the top-quality, high-efficiency water heaters from Lochinvar were a priority on this project. According to Holster, USF succeeded in building a sports medicine and hydrotherapy facility "equal to or better than" most NFL facilities. He also said that the facility is being used more than originally anticipated and the Lochinvar equipment has kept up with the demand. Todd Wilson, project engineer with Brady & Anglin, has been working with HVAC equipment for years. He noted that no service calls have come in from the university regarding the Copper-Fin II water heaters or the Lock-Temp storage tank. "We haven't even had to come out and tweak the system," Wilson said. "Aside from the pre-cast walls, the installation was problem-free, and the customer service was outstanding."

On time and under budget

The Lochinvar system runs a 160°F circulating loop throughout the building, with hot water pulled through a mixing valve into a secondary 110° circulation loop for the showers. The entire construction project was completed on time and under budget, thanks in part to the choice of Lochinvar equipment and its simple installation.

The initial operating costs of the Lochinvar system brought smiles to the staff at USF. Mike Wilcox, director of auxiliary operations, said that USF is "very satisfied" with the performance of the water heaters and storage tank. "It's been great," Wilcox said. "We were particularly impressed with the self-diagnostic features that keep all of the equipment running smoothly. The entire system is very user-friendly. And quiet."