- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - Athletic director Jim Phillips said investments like the new Northwestern lakefront athletics and recreation complex are “absolutely necessary” to stay competitive.

On Friday, the school announced it’s going to break ground on a long-awaited facility. There will be an indoor multipurpose facility for football practice along with Olympic sports teams practices and competitions and recreational use.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald was excited about the project, saying he already had his “hard hat and work boots” in his office.

“It’s a game-changer for us, from a standpoint that our campus and our student-athletes, all of our student-athletes, are now fully integrated,” Fitzgerald said.

Phillips said Northwestern expects to finish the $260 million project in two years. He acknowledged it was “driven initially” by football but will have a residual impact on the rest of the athletic department and student body.

“Everybody knows the University of Chicago is a tremendous institution. Back in the 40s, they decided to leave the Big Ten. They were one of the founding members,” Phillips said. “Northwestern is in the Big Ten conference. It’s one of the 65 autonomous schools. There is a price for staying in that level of competition, and it’s something that we embrace.”

A formal groundbreaking is scheduled for Friday.

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