January/February 2015
California State University Renovations
Facility improvements boost university's branding
From Kevin Hoffman, Managing Editor

Branding an athletic department is just as important as hiring a quality staff. Especially for college programs hoping to advance their basketball programs on the competitive recruiting trail.

Michael Matoso, athletic director at California State University Stanislaus (Turlock, California), kept that in mind as he led his program through a recent renovation of two locker rooms that were in desperate need of upgrades. The project was also an effort to remind everyone that the university was committed to improving and growing the student-athlete experience.

“Part of it was branding, and the other part is with today’s kids, your locker room is such a big part of recruiting and having a facility that coaches can show off, Matoso said.

Matoso said he started working with BigSigns.com during the summer of 2012 to develop a strategy for re-branding his athletic program. The existing brand identity was in an elementary state, and Matoso wanted to enhance the university’s image to both student-athletes and recruits.

That’s becoming a focal point of more and more athletic directors these days. Student-athletes want assurance that the university is invested in their programs and prospective students prefer a school that affords them the best college experience.

To build brand awareness for their programs, athletic directors embrace a variety of tactics like using a uniform logo across all programs, forging new relationships with their communities or creative marketing plans. Branding represented just a sliver of Matoso’s overall strategy, but he’s confident the upgrades will go a long way in impressing recruits.

At the very least, it provides a better environment for athletes while giving them a new sense of pride in their respective programs. Matoso said renovations were done to the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms. The school spent around $100,000 on each facility and also purchased new flooring, seating and lockers.

Last year, in our women’s locker room, they had a couch that I wouldn’t have sat in, Matoso joked. We had cold metal lockers, and the carpet was torn up. Now you can’t help but feel good about walking into something like this. I definitely feel like the athletes are very happy that we’re taking an interest in providing them with the best services.”

CSU Stanislaus received a $250 000 gift to help cover expenses related to the renovations of the locker rooms and other improvements. The locker rooms were completed last year, and the university also installed video equipment, allowing the team to review film.

“The student-athletes absolutely loved it, Matoso said. Our athletes have stopped me and said thank you because it looks so amazing. It makes them feel good about themselves and what they’re walking into.”

Matoso didn’t face any impossible challenges during the renovation, but having spent 18 years at private institutions, the whole process was new to him. He said it was important to take his time to figure out exactly what would best serve his students.

Some of the companies he worked with took an active role in aiding that process. Matoso said he was essentially starting from scratch, but he was able to get assistance in finding everything he needed. What helped was having a number of quality athletic facilities already at his fingertips, and that’s partly what attracted him to the university to begin with.

The basketball arena was only in need of a few upgrades. That included two stone walls outside the arena, which were covered and are no longer an eyesore.

Matoso said he plans to undergo work on other facilities in the coming years. The university was fortunate in receiving donations for the projects, and he also carved out money in his budgets over the next five years.

“Facilities are the most expensive things to change, but that’s one of the things that brought me here, Matoso said. We had a good foundation. We just needed the bells and whistles to really make it pop.”

For others undergoing a similar type of project, Matoso recommends doing several things at once. He said Big Signs spent two to three days on his campus, taking measurements at various facilities. Even though the complete renovation isn’t finished, he now has that information available, allowing him to continue additional upgrades whenever the time comes.

“I really tried to develop a plan for all of our facilities, Matoso said. Now it’s just a matter of me figuring out what I want and where I’m at on pricing.

“If you do these things, it’ll pay off with people having a different vibe when they come to your events.”

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