Fans who attend Gryphon football games this year will be able to track the progress on the construction of the Gryphon Pavilion for themselves.This week ground was broken to start the building of the $8.5 million facility at Alumni Stadium. The pavilion, which will be built just north of the existing grandstand structure and joined to it, is funded by the Angel Gabriel Foundation started by former head football coach Stu Lang and his wife, Kim, and it’s slated to open in December.“Six years ago this coaching staff set a goal to build the most attractive, the best and the most successful university football program in Canada,” Stu Lang said. “To accomplish this goal requires first-class modern facilities to provide the training, the supporting and, not to forget, the feeding of our players. With this new pavilion, we move closer to completing our goal.”“It just kind of reflects the excellence that Stu’s created within this program,” interim head coach Kevin MacNeill said. “From an auxiliary standpoint, now we have the facility match the level of the program. The really neat thing about this experience is that we now have the top one per cent of facilities in the country and it’s just going to be a great place to call home for our student athletes.”The pavilion will give the team’s players all the facilities they need to be able to study and train in one place. It’s also expected that the pavilion will bring the players and coaching staff even closer together.“Our football program has a hidden contract,” Lang said. “The players will be provided the best coaches, facilities and training in return for their dedicated effort, exemplary conduct and winning attitude. By continuing to improve the former, we want to challenge the latter.”The pavilion will also allow the players a chance to add a little more time into their schedules for schoolwork or studying game plans or just simply to sleep.“We’re very busy people in season,” quarterback James Roberts said. "We wake up, eat, have class for multiple hours a day, watch film, go to practice for two hours and watch film for another two hours. By the time we’re going home, we’re pretty much just crashing, waking up and doing it again.“I know this seems a little bit crazy in some points, but this facility is going to help us and it’s going to help our team in an incredible manner. This is going to give us a place to study at all times where in this school, as our players know, the library is very full a lot of the time and this is something that is to our advantage in that sense. It’s also going to help us come closer. This is a place where we can always be hanging out and always be together as a unit and it’ll help our quality of play.”The completion of the pavilion will add to the athletic facilities on campus.“It just continues to build on the excellence that’s happening here on campus,” Gryphon athletic director Scott McRoberts said. “To think by the end of this year we’ll have over $55 million of new athletic centres and the pavilion, our student athletes and our varsity athletes have got to be the luckiest people on campus in Canada right now. It’s very exciting.”Having a place where the football players can be together multiple hours a day will only help them become a closer, tight-knit group.“Building that 12 months a year will speak volumes in the fourth quarter of a football game,” McRoberts said. “It’s team in a sense. It’s team in the classroom, team on the field and team at the table. It speaks to that family culture that’s built here. It’s about building the whole student.”It’s also hoped that the pavilion will attract Gryphon football alumni to more games than just the annual Homecoming Game.“It’s hopefully an alumni magnet to attract the alumni back,” Lang said. “They’ll have an indoor facility to watch the game and hopefully most of our games will be sunny so they can get up on the roof (to watch the games from a viewing area there).”The building of the structure has been in the making since the end of Lang’s first season as head coach of the Gryphons in 2010.“After every season we used to meet as a coaching staff and say ‘OK, what’s our greatest needs?’ They were always closer meeting rooms and a better locker room,” Lang said. “It was always on our mind and things just sort of fell into place.”However, the team decided that the erecting of the video scoreboard and renovation of the performance centre on the top floor of the office and locker room portion of the grandstand had to come first.“All those things had to happen before we could think about that,” Lang said. “We’ve actually gone beyond the pavilion and looked at the whole corner to make it a spot where students can gather for the games and be sort of a real ‘cool’ environment around the football stadium.”The two-story facility will include the locker room and player’s lounge while the second floor will house offices for the coaches, a video production room, meeting rooms and a large boardroom and will be a good vantage point to watch the game on wet days as the side facing the field will have floor-to-ceiling windows. On sunny days, football alumni will be able to watch games from a viewing area on the facility’s rooftop.The project also includes renovations to the existing Alumni Stadium facility. A new equipment room and a new therapy centre that is to feature a dedicated hydrotherapy room with a pair of therapeutic plunge pools.“I think we’re really pushing the envelope,” Lang said. “We’re ahead of most teams in the CIS when we build this facility.”The visiting team will also get a larger locker room as they’ll use the one currently used by the Gryphons which is considerably bigger than the cramped quarters the visiting teams have used since the facility opened in 1970.In preparation for the construction of the pavilion, half of the bottom floor of the existing facility has been boarded up and ruled out of bounds for several weeks. With some of the offices for the coaches being located in that area, the staff will share a pair of offices until the pavilion is built. While conditions are cramped, it’s provided an unexpected benefit.“It’s been outstanding,” MacNeill said. “We were all kind of spread out in different locations in the stadium before. Now we’re all together and the actual level of collaboration and communication has increased. It’s actually been a lot of fun and the guys are enjoying it. The guys share a lot more ideas. They joke around about it, but I think they actually enjoy it.”The Gryphons are preparing for the 2016 season. They’ve just completed their spring camp and will next be together on the field in an official capacity for the start of training camp Aug. 15. The regular season is to start with the home opener Aug. 28 against the Toronto Varsity Blues at 1 p.m.