Chief Operating Officer Kevin O’Connell gazed through windows overlooking Stone Stadium and the South Carolina fieldhouse. A gleaming new building stood adjacent to the soccer field.
“You’re never done improving,” he said.
With the 2015-16 sports season completed, the USC athletic department is focusing on several facility upgrades. The transformation of USC’s fields, stadiums and administration buildings over the past six years has been an ongoing process.
There are projects under construction, projects finishing and one idea still in the discussion phase. Then there are the yearly requests from USC’s coaches.
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“We have a finite number of dollars, and as a senior staff, we put them all up on the board and prioritize the ones that we want to do. We’d like to do them all; it’s not possible,” O’Connell said. “But we do as many as we can and we do them in priority order based on the resources we have available to us.”
The building beside Stone Stadium opens directly onto the field and is the new home for men’s and women’s soccer. The $3.175 million facility houses locker rooms for each team, training rooms, coaches’ locker rooms and a weight room for soccer and other sports.
“It was part of coach (Ray) Tanner’s original vision when he became athletic director,” O’Connell said. “We really think it’s going to enhance our recruiting efforts for both men and women.”
That building is ready for the next seasons. Three other projects are scheduled for completion by August.
On the opposite end of the athletic village, Weems Baskin Track is being overhauled. A completely new oval is being installed, with a new building to house operations for meets. The walkway that begins at Heyward Street will be extended to Rosewood Drive, taking pedestrians through USC’s tennis and sand volleyball courts, softball stadium and track.
New structures for the field events will border Rosewood and be ready for the fall season. The price tag is $10.175 million.
Williams-Brice Stadium is having a new field installed. The $995,000 project will put in new drainage, irrigation and grass and be ready for the 2016 season (USC has a couple of weeks leeway, with two straight road games to open the year).
Where a Bojangles’ restaurant once stood across the street, the area is being cleared for 57 new parking spaces for the new season. “They’re similar to what the VIP North and South spaces are now,” O’Connell said. “They’ll each have cable and power, so that’s going to be a beautiful addition for us.”
Two more facilities are changing. The media room at Founders Park (on the lower level, facing Catawba Street) will be turned into a players’ lounge. Adjacent to the locker room, it will feature TVs, counter space and chairs.
“We anticipate finishing about January, February 2017,” O’Connell said. “It’s mainly a place for them to go and watch TV, study, have quiet time. A place for the players to gather before and after practice.”
Part of that $975,000 project is a new media room on the second level of the stadium. Beside the windows overlooking the indoor batting cage, the room will be a few steps from the pressbox entrance.
And, new basketball offices for Frank Martin and his men’s staff are set to be completed by May 2017. Martin is currently housed in a converted luxury suite at Colonial Life Arena; his former office on the second floor of the volleyball court next to Carolina Coliseum was made into a full floor for the women’s basketball staff.
The new men’s offices will be on the bottom floor of the Coliseum, entered from the Elephant Room. The $4 million project will have training rooms for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, plus a weight room for all three.
The current process is cleaning out 30 years’ worth of junk at the Coliseum. Asbestos and other materials have to be taken out before demolition of other pieces, designed to keep the practice courts untouched.
“Ultimately, it will take us about three months to do the abatement and the demolition before we can actually turn the corner and begin the construction part of it,” O’Connell said.
Then will come an indoor track, set to be completed by Fall 2017. The fieldhouse, currently housing a 60-yard indoor football field and tennis courts, will be gutted with the structure intact. A banked track will be installed for a budgeted $4.65 million, although the project has not been bid on.
After those, a new football operations building will be constructed in front of the new practice fields behind Gamecock Park. The $50 million building will keep football self-contained at the Williams-Brice area.
“We have Phase I approval,” O’Connell said. “They’re doing the design of the building and they’re also working on the final cost. If we get all the approvals and everything goes as planned, it will be done in August of 2018.”
Once everything is completed, USC will discuss other potential plans. A project discussed is adding suites and club seats to the East stands at Williams-Brice.
“But that’s down the road,” O’Connell said. “We’re never done.”
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South Carolina has several athletic facility projects to be completed this summer and is working on four larger initiatives.
Parking at old Bojangles’ site
Founders Park players’ lounge, media room
Men’s basketball offices
Football operations building
*Budgeted cost; project has not been bid on