CLEMSON—Clemson fans had better visit it while they can, because pretty soon the gates of paradise will be locked to those hoping to get a peek inside.
No, we are not talking about the Baptistery of Saint John in Florence, Italy—we are talking about the doors to the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex adjacent to the practice fields in Clemson, South Carolina—home to the 2016 national champion Clemson Tigers.
A tourist attraction similar to Disney World for many of the Tiger fans that have visited since it’s opening Feb. 1, the complex is not only the home of a state of the art weight room, coach’s offices, sleep areas, locker rooms, hydrotherapy pools, outdoor basketball court, dining facility, golf simulator, bowling alley, barbershop, production studio, among other things—it is the home of the Tigers national championship trophies that welcome visitors in the lobby of the facility.
The lobby, a popular photo spot for fans looking to get their picture taken with the trophies, also features the popular Nike Room—complete with a display case featuring all of the championship rings the program has given out, including the three from this past season for winning the ACC Championship, the College Football Playoff and the National Championship.
With everyone wanting to get a glimpse or a photo inside the state-of-the-art facility, the Tigers are preparing to tighten security—and access to their $55-million-dollar home.
“We’ve had thousands of fans come through since February,” Assistant Athletic Director of Football Recruiting and External Affairs said. “So, we are going to tighten up all tours of the building for everyone. The only access to the building will be only the trophy in the lobby. That is fully in effect now, and will be even more so when the gate gets in at the end of the month.
“If you want a picture with the trophy—you can do that. But that’s it. The only thing available, period, is to walk in the front door and take a picture with the trophy.”
The reason for the enhanced security is simply that the buildings first and primary function is to serve the players and the coaching staff—something that they were having a difficult time doing do to the limited parking spots available in front of the building due to the sheer number of fans wanting to get a look at the building.
“Last Monday, we finished up the parking spots, and we had to do that project because of the popularity of the building,” Turnipseed said. “We would have somewhere between one hundred and two hundred cars per day with people driving through the parking lot and people stopping to look at the building and come in and take pictures with the trophies. Because of that, our players had no places to park.”
In order to aid in the control of who has access to the parking lot, the complex will soon feature a gate that will eliminate any unwanted visitors from gaining access to the facilities parking lot—meaning that anyone who wants to come in and get a picture with the trophies will have to walk.
“We’re putting in a gate at the end of the month, before Sept. 1,” Turnipseed said. “After that, you will have to park in one of those spaces outside of the gate or park over in Jervey Meadows and walk over.”
While it may seem extreme, it is not only the fans that have caused some issues with the building functioning as it was intended—there have been between 25-30 teams that have come to tour the facility.
“There is a professional courtesy, and we have allowed them to come in and see what we have,” Turnipseed said. “Texas, Ohio State, Oregon and Michigan State brought their entire staffs down. Tennessee and Georgia sent people—I am missing people, but there have been a lot of schools.”
For Turnipseed, there is an understanding that the fanbase simply wants a glimpse into the program—and the most famous trophy in college athletics.
And while for the foreseeable future the chance to drive up and walk around the home of the Tigers is over, Turnipseed did leave the door open to changing the policy after the season saying, ‘Maybe after football season we will try and come up with something.”
But for now, Tiger fans will have to understand that the gate to paradise are locked.