• Laurie Rudd

A Complex of Champions

A specialty retailer and outdoor manufacturer make a design score at the Clemson football Outdoor Village.

In the world of college athletics, the month of February kicked off in a big way. As collegiate football teams nationwide unveiled their latest recruits, one university also unveiled the results of a monumental team effort—a facility built to shape and enrich their gridiron athletes’ lives.

On Feb. 1, the recently crowned national champion Clemson Tigers introduced a multi-million-dollar, 140,000-square-foot football complex. It was conceived and designed by head coach William “Dabo” Swinney and Thad Turnipseed, director of recruiting and external affairs. This facility includes a roster of state-of-the-art amenities and features worthy of the national champs, including the adjacent outdoor spaces created by two champions of the outdoor industry.

Outdoor Village

Within the 55-million dollar football complex, there are amenities for training, study and wellness, but the mental health of the players was also a top priority. The facility’s Outdoor Village is where specialty retailer Firehouse Casual Living and casual manufacturer Castelle created a place for the players, families and staff to kick back and relax.

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A million dollar-plus venture itself, the Outdoor Village was built as an example of the high regard the project designers held for the outdoors.

“I have designed and built numerous facilities totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and none have held an outdoor area as exciting as this one,” said Turnipseed. “This outdoor area provides uniqueness and more bang for the buck than any before.”

In creating the outdoor space, Turnipseed and the project’s construction team—headed by project manager, Nick Dalton, of Sherman Construction—tapped the nearby Greenville, S.C., location of Firehouse Casual Living for furniture seating and dining areas. Although Dalton’s knowledge of the specialty retailer was minimal, he recognized the potential at a glance.

“I had driven by several times and knew furnishings were a part of the plan,” said Dalton. “I thought, why not? So Thad and I set up an appointment to visit.”


Outdoor Plan

Following the visit, Donnie Owens, manager of the Greenville store, and his designer, Diane Brewer, began formulating ideas for the football facility.

“Nick invited us out to the work site," said Owens. “We discussed how they wanted each area to function. We knew Clemson wanted their outdoor spaces to have a resort style and feel, and to provide their football program with different areas for dining, relaxing and entertainment.”

From Owens’ and Brewer’s conversations with Dalton and Turnipseed, they determined the Coco Isle collection by Castelle addressed all the durability, comfort and style requirements of the project.

“We looked at a lot of brands and only found one that had the look we wanted, as well as the durability,” said Turnipseed.

Because this project started from the ground up, the Firehouse Casual team wasn't constrained by any existing elements.

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“We started with a clean slate and had the architect’s plans to work with,” said Owens. “However, as with all new-build projects, there are always a couple last-minute surprises to deal with.”

One element that didn’t come as a surprise was the size of the soon-to-be occupants of the Outdoor Village and what was required to accommodate the many 6-foot-plus, 330-pound athletes.

“Our national champs weigh in at anywhere from 200 to 360 pounds each,” said Owens. “That's asking a lot from a piece of outdoor furniture.” Owens recognized that durability was just as important as resistance to rust and fading, but remained confident in his selection.

“On most outdoor furnishings, when you have someone that weighs more than 220 pounds, they are going to feel the frame under the cushion they are sitting on,” said Owens. “We took this into consideration in our selection to ensure that didn't happen.”

Owens also chose Sunbrella fabrics for the complex based on durability and ease of cleaning for the high-traffic area. Decorative throw pillows in Clemson orange also were added for comfort and a pop of team spirit.


Outdoor Rooms

Multiple areas for grilling, lounging, dining and gathering are incorporated within the massive outdoor plan. In the facility’s two covered areas, couches provide a cozy spot for napping. The outdoor area becomes a theater for watching games or movies when a 20-foot screen is wheeled into the plush deep seating area. A terrace, designed by Dalton’s team, serves as the primary area for entertainment boasting a fireplace with a large flat-screen television.

Within a central area, the Firehouse Casual Living team planned for a large seating and relaxing court flanked by oversized dining tables where athletes could do homework, dine, play games or just chill.

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Within the Outdoor Village, the aptly named “Zen Area” is the favorite of the Firehouse Casual Living manager.

“When I was working on this space, I really kept in mind just how hard these guys work both on and off the field and the amount of pressure they must feel,” said Owens. “I wanted to give them a space where they could quiet not only their bodies, but their minds, as well.”

The Zen area includes an orange mosaic tile fountain, complete with a giant tiger paw and fire bowl, that provides the calming sounds of cascading water. “The fountain is the focal point of this area and I surrounded it with four seating areas,” said Owens.

To accommodate the appetites of all Tiger players and their visitors, a state-of-the-art grilling terrace also was added. Color is once again the star of the show in the main fire pit area, as bright orange rockers and ice bucket end tables root for attention.

The finished result provides the team an outdoor oasis of championship proportions.


Clemson Contact: Thad Turnipseed, director of recruiting and external affairs, Clemson University
Construction Project Manager: Nick Dalton, Sherman Construction
Firehouse Casual Living: Donnie Owens, store manager
Designer: Diane Brewer, Firehouse Casual Living
Location of Project: Clemson University, Clemson, S.C.
Furnishings Brand: Castelle (Coco Isle Collection)
Fabric Brand: Sunbrella
Photo credit: TigerNet/Clemson University Athletic Department

Laurie RuddLaurie Rudd | Contributing Writer, Casual Living

As a 30 year marketing and publicity veteran and owner of Laurie Rudd Public Relations and Marketing, Laurie Rudd has been promoting and writing in and about the outdoor living segment for the past twenty years. Currently, her passion for the outdoor industry is on display in her work for multiple outdoor manufacturers as well as the premier trade publication in the outdoor category, Casual Living. Laurie Rudd is a graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a BFA in Communication Graphics and has been a member of the International Casual Furnishings Association since 2008.

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