New facility a monument to winning tradition of Johns Hopkins lacrosse

Cordish Lacrosse Center houses all things Blue Jays lax

Say one thing about the new Cordish Lacrosse Center—you can't go more than five feet in any direction and not be steeped in Blue Jays glory.

Looming to the left in the entry lobby is a towering two-story trophy case, jam-packed with championship hardware attained throughout the decades.

At eye level, the 2005 NCAA Lacrosse Championship trophy—the holy grail one that broke a 17-year drought of titles for the men's program—resides in a gleaming glass case with the players' names printed on its back wall. The most recent NCAA triumph, the 2007 trophy, sits in its own case just feet away.

A giant Blue Jays seal is inlaid on the floor—but cordoned off to signify that nobody steps on the Jays.

Even the staircase exemplifies victory. The first risers to the second floor are imprinted with NCAA championship years, with room to add more on the ascending steps.

This is the house that a winning tradition built.

Situated prominently at the east end of Homewood Field, the Cordish Lacrosse Center is the new home for both the men's and women's programs. In a sign of solidarity, the bisected building offers near-identical amenities for the two programs.

The 14,750-square-foot facility—which opened in August and gets officially dedicated during halftime of the men's March 1 game vs. Princeton—houses locker rooms, offices, training rooms, study space, a 50-seat theater, a film room, a reception area, and copious nods on the walls (and just about any flat surface) to Johns Hopkins' rich lacrosse heritage.

It is named after David Cordish, a 1960 alum who played with three varsity lacrosse squads, including the 1959 national champions. Cordish was principal donor for the $10 million project, which was funded entirely by private contributions. Many of the rooms' names, for example, pay tribute to others who have made indelible contributions to Johns Hopkins lacrosse.

Cordish, chairman of the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., says that he embraced the opportunity to create the first facility built solely for the support of a university's lacrosse programs.

"My family has a very close connection with Johns Hopkins over multiple generations. My father was an alum. My brother went here, and we both played lacrosse. My three sons grew up watching just about every Johns Hopkins lacrosse game they could," he says. "I wanted to help give Johns Hopkins a facility that nobody else in the country had. It's a gorgeous building, and I love how it sits on the hallowed turf of Homewood Field."

Boston-based William Rawn Associates Architects designed the facility, which was built by Riparius Construction of Hunt Valley and completes the enclosure of Homewood Field.

The modern building's exterior brick mirrors that used on Mason Hall, a more-traditional structure which opened in 2007. The glass walls in the entryway and on the second floor allow natural light within and create a sense of accessibility and transparency.

The most stunning features, however, lie inside.

Players and coaches have direct access to the field from spacious locker rooms outfitted with flat-screen LCD TVs, leather couches, sound systems, and even gaming consoles. Each wood locker is engraved with a Blue Jays logo.

A 50-seat meeting room with theater seating provides space for press conferences and team review of film. On one of the room's walls, and outside in the hallway, are framed jerseys of Blue Jays players who went on to professional lacrosse careers. The professional-level treatment room includes a cold-water therapy tub, a whirlpool, and medical facilities.

Conference and reception areas offer a more formal gathering space to host visitors, alumni, recruits, parents, and players.

The Bill Belichick Film Room—named for the New England Patriots head coach, who is a friend of the lacrosse programs—enables staff to study game footage, edit film, and manage the JHU film archives using high-definition playback equipment. Coaches' offices offer a more intimate meeting space, with access to the second-floor porch that permits premier viewing for games and practice sessions. The aluminum trellis above provides both shade and orientation toward the field. The natural maple paneling and ceiling lend a warmth to the entry and public spaces.

"JHU requested an impressive but refined and elegant facility that exudes the character and integrity of the program," says Betsy Farrell Garcia, an architect with William Rawn Associates.

Both the men's and women's head coaches were heavily involved in all aspects of the building, Farrell Garcia says, from feasibility study through construction.

"They were both enthusiastic and engaged throughout the process, defining clear goals for the program, articulating recruiting needs, establishing a common language, and envisioning long-range success," says Farrell Garcia. "From the start, JHU recognized the building as an investment in the continued future success of the school's storied lacrosse program."

Dave Pietramala, head coach of the men's team, called the building "transformative" for the program.

"Perhaps the No. 1 goal here was to provide a gathering place for the whole Hopkins lacrosse family. We never had that before," he says.

Previously, the men's and women's teams used rooms on the main level of the White Athletic Center, with many spaces cramped or not soundproof.

In addition to offering state-of-the-art, enhanced amenities, the Cordish Lacrosse Center will be a constant visual reminder of the greatness and legacy of Johns Hopkins lacrosse, Pietramala says. The storied men's team, founded in 1883, has won 44 national championships: nine NCAA Division I titles, 29 USILA titles, and six ILA trophies.

"Often when you talk about tradition, it's not something you can see and touch," he says. "We hope that this building—with all the championship trophies, rings, All-American certificates, player jerseys, and other items on display—will give players, recruits, and visitors a much greater sense of who and what we are."

No era of Johns Hopkins lacrosse is left out. A second-floor balcony railing is mounted with chronological images of Homewood Field beginning with its construction in 1907. A study space on the second floor contains two of Pietramala's favorite photos, a Johns Hopkins-affiliated astronaut holding a JHU lacrosse pennant aboard the space shuttle Columbia, and a picture of the 2007 championship team posed outside the White House with President George W. Bush.

"Up until now, the history has been passed down by word of mouth, to the point that our young players thought they were myths," Pietramala says. "Now they have this tangible way of understanding our success."

According to the coaches, the current players have embraced the new space and made it their own.

Janine Tucker, now in her 20th season as head coach of the women's team, says that the Cordish Lacrosse Center can help bring the women's program to the next level. The program was founded in 1976, and after 22 years in Division III, switched to Division I in 1999.

"I think this building levels the playing field for us," Tucker says. "In terms of recruiting, this puts us on a whole different level." Pietramala agrees.

In order to compete with the top schools in the sport, he says, Johns Hopkins has to stand out. With lacrosse more of a coast-to-coast sport than ever before, the university has to compete for players against large powerhouse schools such as Virginia, Syracuse, Ohio State, and Notre Dame.

"It's already been phenomenal in the recruiting respect," Pietramala says. "Just the existence of this building speaks loud and clear how we feel about lacrosse and the place it holds in the university. We're selling an idea."

An idea now given form.

Pietramala and Tucker say that no details were left to chance in the building's design, right down to the Blue Jays logos imprinted on every chair, the team colors of blue and black chosen for the tiles in the shower room, and a digital clock outside the men's dressing room that counts down the days, hours, and minutes to the next game.

Even the empty walls have a purpose: room to display future glory.