By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Shane Callahan and Will Adams were trying to decide how to best utilize their new digs.
Move the sofa over so they'd have a good view of Plainsman Park? Look just over home plate toward Jordan-Hare Stadium? Keep an eye on other doings from that big window?
Wednesday was moving day for Auburn's two offensive linemen and the rest of the football team into the new-and-expansive suite-styled $51 million South Donahue Residence Hall, located where the very-1960s athletic dorm, Sewell Hall, once stood.
The 209-room residence hall will house more non-athletes than athletes, but almost the entire football team will be there as will many athletes from other sports. The building, which features mostly two-bedroom suites, is in a perfect location — just across from the athletic building, the weight room, the football practice fields, the athletic academic building, a parking deck and a new Wellness Center that will begin serving meals in 2014. Just up the street are baseball's Plainsman Park, football's Jordan-Hare Stadium and basketball's Auburn Arena. Around the corner and down the street are the soccer and softball fields and the track.
Or, as freshman safety Khari Harding succinctly tweeted Wednesday night, "New dorm!"
Football coach Gus Malzahn is taking advantage of the location by housing his team together.
"The team bonding is very important," Malzahn said. "I told our team that's what we were doing the very first week I was here. Some of them weren't happy about it, but now they're excited about it. They understand why we're doing it. It's to help our team."
Malzahn said the residence hall will impress the next wave of athletes as well.
"It's got to be one of the nicest in the country, and you put that with the location, I believe most parents want their kids on campus. That's how we're building this thing," he said.
Some of the suites have four bedrooms, and some are one bedroom for residence hall staff. But most are two bedrooms with hardwood floors, flat screen TVs, separate bathrooms and a small kitchen. There are even washers and dryers in every room. There are 426 beds, up from the 100 at Sewell Hall. The new facility will be home to 418 students, with less than half being athletes, as required by NCAA rule.
There will be a convenience store downstairs, too, and study rooms on every floor.
The NCAA voted athletic dorms out in 1991 and did away with them completely by 1996. But residence halls can house athletes as long as more than 50 percent of the students aren't athletes. This one was built by B.L. Harbert International. Montgomery-based Goodwyn Mills and Cawood are the architects.
The construction and development funding came from the university, not the athletic department.
Athletics Director Jay Jacobs said players will build camaraderie under one roof.
"I think that's something we all missed," he said. "I think it's big for building a foundation and getting the program back where we expect it to be. Getting to know your teammates away from the practice field and the weight room is real important.
"When you get to know people, you care about them."
Rooms with a view? Depends where you land. The residence hall is 250,000-square feet and offers different options. The baseball and football stadiums are one view. The athletics complex is another. Many will face the horseshoe courtyard and amphitheatre.
The cost for a two-bedroom suite is $4,800 per bed per semester. A four-bedroom suite is $4,300 per bed per semester.
Sound enticing? Sorry. There's already a waiting list.
Football, volleyball and soccer players moved in first because their seasons aren't far away. The big move-in day will be Aug. 17 when the general student population arrives.
The work crews have a few weeks of work left to put the finishing touches on the outside, like bringing in the 20-foot oak tree for the courtyard and amphitheatre.
This is a long way from Sewell Hall, said one former player.
"It sure it is a lot different," Jacobs said. "Sewell was great. It served its purpose, particularly for football. But this will serve all of our students."
Charles Goldberg is a writer for AuburnTigers.com. You can follow him on Twitter: