EUGENE, Ore. — Aaron Wasson was a busy man at the beginning of September.
As director of equipment operations for the University of Oregon, Wasson was in the middle of getting gear ready for the Ducks’ first football game.
He was also overseeing his department’s transition into a newly reconstructed facility.
“We’re in the process of moving in as well,” Wasson says. “It’s a pretty big equipment space, and we have construction trailers and tractor trailers, shipping containers around that we’ve had stuff in for a while.”
The new equipment space is part of the university’s new Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Center, which was named after the university’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (2014). Mariota is now the starting quarterback for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
Included in Wasson’s equipment space is a new laundry area, fittingly called the Pond. And as he was preparing the team’s equipment, Wasson was preparing his laundry team for its first game-day processing.
“We’re about three weeks into using the laundry,” says Wasson.
Up to that point, the laundry had only seen workout gear, not game-day laundry. But, with a doubled capacity, Wasson was sure the process would go smoothly.
FROM PUDDLE TO POND
The program’s previous laundry facility, according to Wasson, was a small room that served the football program and some of the university’s other programs.
“In the previous laundry facility, we had three washers and two dryers,” he says. “We had a capacity of about 250 pounds.”
With the center, everything about the laundry is newer, and bigger.
“We basically reconstructed the entire facility [known as the Casanova Center],” Wasson says. “We drilled all the way down to rock and poured a new slab for the entire facility, and moved everything around. Moved electrical. We moved water to a totally different side, probably 50 yards away from where the laundry facility was. We just totally wiped that out and started new.”
When it came to equipment, Wasson says the construction team researched three different manufacturers and interviewed all three. In the end, they went with Speed Queen hard-mount washers and dryers—six of each. He says four of the washers are 80 pounds in capacity and two are 60 pounds, with the dryers being their equivalents.
According to Wasson, the laundry uses the Tide Professional Laundry System industrial product. In addition, he’s particularly proud of the facility’s lint trap, provided by Cleaning and Laundry Equipment Co. out of Portland. He says the lint containment system “is just massive.”
“We spent a considerable amount of time on our laundry facility because we have our student managers who come in and do laundry at off-hours, and we wanted to make sure that we were in a safe space and large enough that they could move around laundry carts and had cabinets that they could store product shelving where they could do a lot of folding,” says Wasson.
According to Wasson, the Pond connects to the manager break room and the locker room. This provides the student managers access so they can be in working when the equipment room isn’t actually open.
“They have access to all of these areas,” he says. “There’s a speaker system, a stereo system. There’s a computer and a television that’s tied into the speaker system. It’s a really nice space for them. We’re really happy with the way it came out.”
One part of the laundry room that Wasson says he and his team put a lot of thought into was where the chemicals were going to be stored and how to get the chemicals to the washers. The solution? Run the lines up and over so laundry staff could walk back behind the washers to make it easy to do maintenance.
“We took all of the electrical up and over, as well as the water and the lines for the chemical, up and over, where it probably goes up to 8 to 10 feet, over and then back down,” Wasson says. “You can easily walk right behind the washers.”
Wasson also wanted to eliminate backflow or clogging issues in the new facility, so system designers doubled the size of the drainage that was called for.
“We doubled the size of the trough as well as the piping that runs through it,” he says.
Finally, Wasson and his team needed to be creative when it came to cart storage.
“We have hard-sided, plastic laundry carts, and we have two dozen of those,” he says. “We were trying to find a place where they could be stored when they weren’t being used, instead of taking up floor space or stacking them.”
To solve that cart storage issue, Wasson partnered with a company called Spacesaver Specialists Inc. out of Tualatin, Ore. The company offers rolling shelving units that take up half the space, and Wasson challenged them to come up with a way to store and move their carts.
The company built a platform that is attached to, and comes out of, the wall, says Wasson. He says the unit can handle four laundry cart stacks on it at once, and then it carries the carts up and stores them against the wall.
“You can walk underneath it. You can store things underneath it. You just press a button and the laundry carts come down to the floor level, take them off the shelf and you’re ready to go. That’s a pretty cool contraption,” says Wasson.
The entire Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Center is “a really nice space,” and plans for the center began three years ago, Wesson says.
At that time, the university had completed its new football operations building called the Hatfield Dowlin Complex. Then, he says, the program started looking at what its next big project—the next big facility need—would be.
“There were essentially two different projects that we ended up turning into one,” Wesson says.
One project was a sports performance center for testing athletes and enhancing their performances. The three main areas of the performance center’s technologies are recovery, physiology and movement.
“That was one part of the project, with motion-capture cameras, force plates, those types of things,” Wesson says. “Australia is way ahead of the curve in that respect. We wanted to be the first collegiate university in the United States to really emphasize that type of testing and analysis for our student-athletes.”
The other project was to expand and remodel the equipment room for the football program and some of the other athletics programs, such as baseball, soccer and lacrosse.
“We had about 30,000 square feet to work with for those two projects,” Wasson says. “We essentially split the two projects. One side of the facility is sports performance and the other side is our equipment room.”
He says that the decision to combine the projects happened about two years ago. After that, the project team went into research mode.
Wesson says they made numerous visits to places like Gatorade, NASA and Red Bull, plus spent a week in Australia, all to research the sports performance side of the project.
Then, he says, the team took another week in the States, traveling across the country looking at equipment rooms and laundry spaces serving teams in the collegiate and NFL ranks.
“I think we went to seven different equipment rooms and laundry spaces in three days in February 2015,” says Wesson. “We spent a morning with the Seattle Seahawks. We spent some time at Notre Dame, Louisiana State and Oklahoma State. That’s how the process began. We were able to take a look at what they had and put our own spin on it.”
Check back Thursday for the conclusion on how the new laundry operates on game day.