Home court advantage: Basketball player Melanie Royster works on a project dear to her heart

Basketball player and interior design major Melanie Royster works on a project dear to her heart

Home court advantage: Basketball player Melanie Royster works on a project dear to her heart

Tim Lampe, Ed.D., senior associate athletic director at Virginia Commonwealth University, often chats with the student-athletes he passes in the halls at the Siegel Center. Lampe likes to get to know them, so he talks to them whenever he can.

One day this summer he ran into senior Melanie Royster, a forward/center on the women’s basketball team. They talked for a few moments before Lampe casually asked a simple question: What was Royster’s major?

Interior design, she replied.  

“It was instant,” Lampe said. “When she answered, it was a quick, ‘Wow, I’ve got an opportunity for you. … How would you like to get involved with the interior design of the basketball practice facility that you’ll be practicing in?’”

The prospect was beyond what most college students ever could have dreamed of. While Royster has interned with and shadowed interior designers, this marks the first time she has been a team member on a physical project. As far as first projects go, the 60,000-square-foot, $25 million Rams basketball practice facility is a real coup.

Rendering of the entrance to VCU's new basketball facility. Courtesy of VMDO Architects.
Rendering of the entrance to VCU's new basketball facility. Courtesy of VMDO Architects.

Royster is a unique asset to the design team. She brings a distinctive background and experience to the table that adds a fresh perspective to discussions.

“[It] helps because I know perfectly what is needed, what I like to see and what recruits would want to see,” she said. “They really value what I say in meetings. They really want to hear what I think.”

Royster attends meetings with Lampe, architects and contractors from VMDO Architects and Barton Malow Co., and designers from KSA Interiors. Sometimes coaches attend, but even they can’t provide the same insight as Royster.

“I’ve talked to coaches and I’ve talked to interior designers and everybody has their great ideas, but what does the student-athlete want?” Lampe said. For instance, he cited four main areas where student-athletes will spend their time in the facility: the gym, the dining hall, the players’ lounge and the locker room. Yet none of those is the most crucial element to Royster.

“Last time we met, we talked about the lobby, because I think that’s going to be the most important part,” she said. “That’s my main focus right now. I think when entering the space, that’ll be the most important part because that’s the first thing you see. And my thought was that when that student-athlete or that recruit walks in, they feel like they’re a superstar, like all eyes are on them. Like when you’re playing a game and they’re introducing the starting five and all the lights are on you, then it just seems like such a big moment.

... my thought was that when that student-athlete or that recruit walks in, they feel like they’re a superstar, like all eyes are on them.

That’s what I want for the players when they walk into the space. So I was talking to [Lampe] about that for the lobby and he really liked the idea. Tim was all about it. … It’s the ‘wow’ factor.”

After all, recruits would spend most of their time as athletes at VCU at this facility. When prospects visit, they tour the whole campus, but the practice facility is the main event, Royster said. If it’s captivating enough, it could make a difference in their decision.  

Lampe said Royster has been a phenomenal resource. Not only does she provide the student-athlete perspective, but she also understands color and design and their role in the space. Lampe said she pays attention to the details.

“What kind of rails on your steps are you using? What kinds of tiles are on the walls in your restrooms? What do your offices look like?,” Lampe said. “I mean, [with] all those little details for me — who has trouble matching his socks — it’s great to have someone like Melanie who studies this and understands. … She has the wherewithal — it’s really interesting — some great insights, some great ideas. And we give her the floor and we let her talk.”

Construction on the facility began in June on Marshall Street directly behind the Siegel Center. Plans call for the facility to open by late September or October 2015. The two-story structure contains identical men’s and women’s sides with common areas in the middle that include strength and conditioning, athletic training, and dining.

Lampe is looking forward to meeting the next generation of student-athletes in the new building.

“Getting to know that student-athlete on this sort of level and then present Melanie an opportunity where she can actually contribute to something that’s meaningful to her and to her career at VCU, I think that’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

 

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Rendering of the exterior of VCU's new basketball facility. Courtesy of VMDO Architects.
Rendering of the exterior of VCU's new basketball facility. Courtesy of VMDO Architects.
Rendering of a practice court within the new facility. Courtesy of VMDO ARchitects.
Rendering of a practice court within the new facility. Courtesy of VMDO ARchitects.