The University of Guelph broke ground today on an $8.5-million facility to upgrade the football team’s locker room and offices.

The project, funded by the Angel Gabriel Foundation, the charity started by former head football coach Stu Lang and his wife, Kim, is scheduled to open in December of 2016.

It was unveiled at a ceremony involving University of Guelph president Franco Vaccarino, Guelph mayor Cam Guthrie, interim football coach Kevin MacNeill, athletics director Scott McRoberts, starting quarterback James Roberts and Lang.

“This is something enormously important for the University of Guelph and a big part of the campus master plan,” said Vaccarino.

“Stu and Kim have been phenomenal supporters of the University, and our appreciation goes out to them in a big way.”

Lang said the idea for the facility originated six years ago when the coaching staff began making plans for the team’s future.

“We want prospective student athletes to look at the University of Guelph and know that their experience here will be second to none,” said Lang.

He helped turn the Gryphon football program into one of the top university football programs in Canada during his five-year tenure. Last November, the team captured its first Yates Cup title since 1996.

“Our vision has always been to create a program that can sustain success and strive for excellence for years to come,” Lang said.

The two-storey structure will adjoin Alumni Stadium near College Avenue.

Its ground floor will house a 3,300-square-foot, state-of-the-art locker room for the Gryphon football team and a year-round players’ lounge.

The second floor will contain meeting rooms for players and coaches, a boardroom, coaches’ offices and a video production room.

A rooftop viewing area will be available for football alumni on game days.

Renovations now taking place inside Alumni Stadium will result in a new equipment room and a therapy centre, including a hydrotherapy room.

McRoberts said the project signals a new era for the team.

“With the world-class improvements being made to the facilities on our campus, we will continue to be a coveted destination for the top student athletes around the country,” he said.

As recruiting becomes more competitive, said MacNeill, a facility upgrade can be a game-changer.

“We’ve always been able to engage recruits when talking about our rich history and the tremendous academic opportunities here. But when you couple that with state-of-the-art facilities, U of G truly becomes a top destination for young men looking to play Canadian university football.”