Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Construction begins on new athletics complex

As it gears up for the return of Hatter Football and the introduction of Women’s Lacrosse in 2013, Stetson University will begin construction this week on a $6.7 million athletics complex to include a Field House and four playing fields.

Stetson’s Athletics Enhancement Initiative will provide a new and improved game-day field to be shared by Men’s and Women’s Soccer and Women’s Lacrosse, with bleacher seating, along with a practice field for soccer and lacrosse and two practice fields for football.

The Field House will be 25,000 square feet with a strength-and-conditioning center, locker rooms, coaches’ offices, athletic training facilities and meeting rooms. The fields will include new lighting and irrigation.

Parking will be constructed at the Field House and at the east end of the new fields. The complex will be on eight acres bound by North Amelia, East Minnesota, North Garfield andEast University avenues on the DeLand campus – a site already used for Stetson sports and recreation. Construction is expected to continue through next Aug. 1. A second phase – to include another practice field for soccer and lacrosse – is planned for the future.

“This is a critical step in strengthening our entire athletics program and in bringing back football to Stetson University,” said President Wendy B. Libby. “Our students, alumni and the greater community love sports, and expanding our athletics program will provide us all with more opportunities to cheer on the Hatters! Stay tuned for the unveiling of our new mascot in late January, too.”

Stetson has joined the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League and is now recruiting its first class of football players since the sport ended at the university after the 1956-57 season. A practice year is planned for 2012-13, with the first playing season being fall 2013. Hatter Football home games will be played at Spec Martin Stadium in downtown DeLand, and more than $2 million in improvements to that complex are being made by the city of DeLand in return for an annual rental fee from Stetson and an agreement to share revenue from sponsorships and advertising and a commission on concessions and parking. Women’s Lacrosse will begin next academic year with the first playing season being spring 2013. Stetson expects to hire a coach for lacrosse this month.

With the addition of those two sports, and Sand Volleyball as an intercollegiate sport this year, the university will have an additional 170 new scholar-athletes by 2013 – a 70-percent increase in the current number, said Director of Athletics Jeff Altier.

“The Athletics Enhancement Initiative will have a positive impact on every sport we offer,” Altier said. “The new weight room will allow us to bring in strength-and-conditioning coaches who will work with all of our student athletes.”

Use of the site’s existing athletics fields, for soccer and intramural sports, has concluded for this semester, and new intramural playing fields will be constructed on the Rinker Field near Stetson’s Hollis Center. Those new fields will be ready in time for the spring intramural season.

“We’re bringing intramurals to the center of campus, allowing those activities to be a focal point of the university,” Altier said.

Funding for the Athletics Enhancement Initiative is coming from donors. Stetson has already raised more than $2.3 million and is continuing to seek donations for the start-up costs for the project.

The general contractor for the new athletics complex will be BACE Construction, DeLand, and the architect is Carter Architecture, DeLand. Others involved in the project include civil engineer Boyer Singleton, DeLand, and playing-field designer Brown and Cullen, Gainesville.

During construction, Stetson will also correct drainage problems in the area of the North Amelia/East Minnesota intersection and install landscaping along the city’s new Alabama Avenue Greenway Trail, which cuts through campus in that area.

“This project will greatly enhance the landscaping and the beauty along Amelia and Minnesota avenues,” said Al Allen, associate vice president for facilities management.

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