A new hub for football training at Syracuse University

Syracuse University, Ensley Athletic Center, Syracuse, NY

Syracuse University’s Ensley Athletic Center is a stand-out facility that enhances its football team’s ability to practice, train and recruit new players. The 87,000 sf facility creates a space where both offensive and defensive units can practice on the field at once and also offers an indoor hub where the team can start spring practices earlier in the year amidst the cold Upstate New York weather. The year-round facility also accommodates the school’s lacrosse, soccer and field hockey teams. The training center also houses a 7,600 sf entry pavilion that houses meeting space and amenities for current players, recruits and staff.

The famous Vince Lombardi quote—”Practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect”—became a guiding theme in our design work. Much effort went into the detailing and design of the structural building systems. The 30-foot structural bays align with the 10-yard markers, reinforcing a calming sense of regularity and consistency to create an environment that helps focus the practice sessions. Simple and robust building materials were selected to complement the adjacent Carmelo Anthony Basketball Center’s metal siding, kallwall (translucent fiberglass) and split face block.


The athletic center has been sited to visually align with Skytop Road to the south. The building massing has been broken down with the addition of overlapping dormer windows. These dormers are designed to emulate the lighting conditions of the Carrier Dome’s tensile roof system, fulfilling the coaching staff’s goal of “practicing like you play.” This daylighting system provides a well-lit neutral background and minimizes energy usage.

The facility honors Syracuse University’s rich legacy of football success in numerous ways. First, the facility is named after Cliff Ensley, a walk-on who earned a football scholarship and became a three-sport standout at Syracuse in the late 1960s. Moreover, when players emerge from the locker rooms in the Manley Field House, they pass through Plaza 44 celebrating the school’s great running backs—Ernie David, Floyd Little and James Brown—en route to the new indoor practice facility.