After almost two years of work, UT is putting the finishing touches on its brand new RecSports Complex on Sutherland Avenue. The bulk of the $14 million construction project is complete and will provide student a new place to play ball in the fall semester.
A couple of summers ago, the only ball at the site was a wrecking ball. UT began the demolition in July 2011 to clear the land of old student apartment complexes that had fallen into disrepair.
Out of that rubble, student fees entirely funded construction of the new fields of dreams for UT RecSports. UT operated under a Hollywood-esque assumption that "if you build it, they will come." In this case, "they" are the bulk of students located at main campus three miles away from the new fields.
"We have plenty of parking here and this is also right along the Third Creek Greenway. Getting here is convenient and is not going to be a problem," said Rex Pringle, director of UT RecSports. "We are also exploring the possibility of setting up bus routes from main campus to the complex."
"We've got students
scattered all over town right now and even in the county using fields for intramural sports, so this is centralized and gives us a better location," said Ken Stoner, Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Life. "Construction took longer than expected, but I do not think people will focus on that when it is open."
The complex was originally scheduled to open almost a year ago. Pringle believes the finished product will be worth the wait.
"We have four AstroTurf fields. There are two softball areas on natural grass. We have four natural grass rectangular multi-purpose fields for soccer and flag football. One of the coolest features is we have three different tiers of sand volleyball, which is really unique," said Pringle.
The complex is also green beyond the grass and artificial turf. A retention pond captures drainage to recycle water for irrigation. The field lights are made by Musco, one of the leading manufacturers of stadium lights, and are energy-efficient.
The RecSports Complex also features a satellite-based lightning detection system that sounds an alarm when there is a direct threat of severe weather.
"The lightning detection system automatically sounds an alarm system that tells people to clear the fields and get to safe cover," said Pringle.
Pringle said there is still work to be done on the alarm system to prevent it from causing too much noise for neighbors. Other items on the to-do list include finishing the interior of the main office building and installing security cameras.
As of now, UT was correct in its assumption that when they built it people would come. In fact, some are already trespassing and coming onto the fields before they are open.
"Right now this is still the property of the contractor and nobody is allowed on the fields," said Pringle. "The other thing is these fields will only be open for students. Some people feel like any UT property is public property because the school receives tax dollars. This facility did not receive any money from tax dollars and was funded entirely by student fees. Due to that fact, this is all paid for by students, so this is a student facility and they will be the primary users."
UT built a small parking lot outside the main gate where the public can park and follow a path to the Third Creek Greenway.
There are plans in the works to schedule an official unveiling ceremony. The event will likely take place on a Friday of one of the first home football game weekends in late August or early September.