Bulldozers and shovels have been as common on the South Carolina campus the past five years as palmetto trees and “Beat Clemson” stickers.
USC is on schedule to have some of its new facilities completed by the first home football game and is hoping to have another wave of upgrades completed within two years.
“We’re never going to stop trying to get better,” athletics director Ray Tanner said last week while updating Gamecocks’ facilities. “We owe that to our student-athletes.”
FOOTBALL INDOOR PRACTICE FACILITY
The structure is on schedule to be completed by Aug. 1, when the team reports for fall camp. USC has had fortunate weather.
“With construction projects, you can get ahead of schedule and you can get behind schedule,” Tanner said. “We’re not going to compromise (the current facility) until we’re ready to go into the new facility.”
USC’s current indoor facility will be gutted so the building can house an indoor track, but it will remain untouched until the new facility is completed.
The area around Williams-Brice Stadium already has a lot of new trees, concrete and brick. It has over a month after the team reports to be completed because the Sept. 3 football season opener will be played in Charlotte.
“It is (on schedule), and when I say to be completed on time, I’m saying Sept. 12,” chief operating officer Kevin O’Connell said. “To coach Tanner’s point, we’ve had great weather the last several weeks, but suppose all of a sudden we get bad weather for a few weeks, we get behind.”
The plaza’s anchor will be a 13-foot statue of Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers. The statue was constructed in Tallahassee, Fla., and then shipped to a foundry in Denver.
USC held a ground-breaking for the new track last week, but construction won’t begin until summer. It will last one year, which forces the track and field squads to practice and compete elsewhere.
“They’ll still have access to the indoor track to do some training,” Tanner said. “We have an agreement with Memorial Stadium (off Rosewood Drive) for practice. It’s a year’s project, possibly done a month or two earlier. We’re hoping late spring (of 2016).”
The loss of a home track for events isn’t significant, as USC usually only hosted one event per year. The new track will cover the current area and the site of the former Roundhouse, and it will extend the walkway that currently stretches from the Rice Athletics Center to the softball complex.
The current football indoor practice facility, located adjacent to Stone Stadium, is divided in half. A football field is on one side, with tennis courts on the other, and a track envelops both halves.
In two years, the building will house a 200-meter track with a fixed bank and seating for 500 people.
“We’re going to host the SEC men’s (tennis) tournament in 2016, so we need that facility in play,” O’Connell said. “We hosted the women’s tournament this spring, and we had rain. It kept raining, and we had to play indoors. We need this in play for the men in spring ’16.”
USC hopes to begin construction after the tournament. It’s approximately a 9-to-10-month project and could be ready by late winter 2017.
Permanent indoor tennis courts are on the future agenda, along with plans for a football operations building and potential suites at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The area bordering Stone Stadium beside the cemetery has been cleared. The foundation should start being laid soon. It will house soccer locker rooms, a weight room and video room.
“It will take us a year,” O’Connell said. “We’re looking at mid-May of ’16.”
The lower level of Carolina Coliseum will be converted into offices for men’s basketball, renovated locker rooms, spaces for each basketball team and the volleyball team. The upper floor of the practice facility beside the Coliseum is being renovated into a women’s basketball office.
“They’ve finished the demolition (of the current women’s offices) at this point, so they’re starting to frame the walls,” O’Connell said. “That will take us probably six months, give or take, so it should be done in November, in time for the season.”
The old layout had the men’s and women’s staffs sharing the top floor of the practice facility. The new layout will have Dawn Staley and her staff’s digs stretching the entire top floor while the men’s staff will have new offices on the bottom floor of the Coliseum, with a revamped entrance to the Elephant Room.
The new area will be a recruiting pull and will lead to the men’s offices, a combined weight room for each basketball team and the volleyball team while each squad will have its own team meeting space. With the basketball practice courts already in the Coliseum, basketball can be nearly self-contained – the new dorm across the street (650 Lincoln) is expected to house all basketball players.
“The men, the next hurdle for us is we go before joint bond review on June 3,” O’Connell said. “Once that happens, it takes about six months to do the construction documents. It would probably take about a year after that.”
The men’s and women’s offices have been relocated to Colonial Life Arena in the meantime.
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState