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February 3, 2013

Gamecocks mull adding sand volleyball

The University of South Carolina is considering serving up a women’s sand volleyball program in the spring 2014, Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner said Sunday.

The University of South Carolina is considering serving up a women’s sand volleyball program in the spring 2014, Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner said Sunday.

Sand volleyball courts were among $51.5 million in new athletics projects shown to trustees at a retreat Sunday.

The new costs could be paid with donations, money already generated by the department and borrowing about $40 million, Tanner said. Expected increases from the SEC’s television and bowl contracts could cover the new bonds, he said.

Also on the table to help pay the new bills: Raising season football tickets for the first time since 2008, Tanner said. Season tickets cost $320.

“It’s all in discussion phase at this point,” Tanner said.

The athletics department has about $125 million in debt. USC has spent nearly $200 million in athletics-related work since 2005 — including new baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, academic and administration buildings and a gameday parking area.

Sand volleyball would become the 21st Gamecocks’ sport if approved by trustees. The popular Summer Olympics event dominated by the three-time U.S. gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings has begun digging out a spot among colleges.

Fifteen schools, including College of Charleston and Florida State, fielded sand volleyball scholarship teams last season, according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

At least seven are adding the sport this spring. Another 24 colleges — including Coastal Carolina, Tennessee and Nebraska — are like South Carolina and contemplating bringing the beach to campus, the association reports. Tanner expects more SEC schools to start teams.

The NCAA requires 40 schools to have teams before holding a sand volleyball championship.

The USC team will have six scholarships, though they could be joined by some players from the Gamecocks' indoor volleyball squad, Tanner said.

School officials will ask trustees later this month to build five sand courts in March on the south part of campus near the rebuilt softball stadium.

Along with work on the neighboring practice soccer fields, the project will cost just under $1 million, according to projections shown trustees Sunday.

Other proposed projects discussed will aid sports programs that need to help to win recruits — such as track and soccer, but two major projects are planned around Williams-Brice Stadium.

Work on the indoor and outdoor football practice fields at the back of the former State Farmer’s Market should start in a year. The projects, which have initial approval from trustees, will cost a combined $17.5 million.

A planned plaza around stadium will swap the parking lots for trees, grassy areas and walkways. Parking will go to east side of the stadium along Key Road where S.C. ETV has buildings. USC bought the property last year.

The building at the corner of Key Road and George Rogers Boulevard that once was the home of The State newspaper could be used for ticket and police operations and a store, USC facilities planning director Derek Gruner said.

The plaza, which needs trustees’ approval, is projected to cost $14 million with work finishing in time for the 2015 season. The widow of the former chairman of the Hooter’s restaurant chain has pledged $4.4 million for the plaza.

Other proposed work in 2014-15 includes:

•  Track and field renovations, including expanding the track to nine lanes, widening the oval, adding stadium seating and building a field event practice area at the site of the former Roundhouse athletics administration building: $10 million
• Converting the current football indoor practice field house into a indoor track and field facility with 500 seats: $5 million
•  New soccer building including locker rooms, lounge, meeting and training rooms: $2.5 million
•  Williams-Brice maintenance: $ 1.5 million
•  Tennis men’s and women’s team meeting, film and locker rooms: $1 million (That work is scheduled for this summer.)

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