Rice University’s women’s soccer, women’s track and field and men’s track and field will be able to utilize a renovated stadium and other facilities after the completion of construction by spring 2016.
According to Rick Mello, deputy assistant director of the athletic department, the aging of the current facilities, originally constructed in 1966, made upgrades necessary.
"I think the impetus to start is, we just had things that needed addressing from a deferred maintenance standpoint,” Mello said. “The bleachers were older. We had issues with the sewer lines. They needed to be replaced.”
According to Mello, the university will replace the current bleachers, which have a capacity of close to 2,000 people, with elevated bleachers capable of holding 1,200 to 1,300 people. Mello said the planned facilities include new restrooms, replaced sewer lines and locker rooms for the officials and both teams.
After a year and a half of planning and construction, Mello said the upgrades are half a year from expected completion in January 2016, in time for the beginning of the track and field season, though team facilities should be ready for use in the fall. The changes should benefit not just spectators but also athletes through the inclusion of a small weight room and new locker rooms, according to Mello.
Track and cross-country athlete Imran Bell said he was excited for the impact of the upgrades.
“We’ve definitely needed something like this for a while,” Bell, Brown College sophomore, said. “It’ll be good to have our own meeting place — I think it’ll emphasize the team aspect of track and field.”
Soccer athlete Genevieve Grundy said she hopes the facilities will draw more attention to her team.
“We had a really good year this past year, so I think we're already motivated to be successful again, and driven to stay on top, and getting a new stadium is even more motivation,” Grundy, a Brown junior, said. “Our hope is that the construction and noise helps spread some awareness of our program, so we can get people a little bit more excited for this season.”
Grundy’s teammate Danielle Spriggs said the new facilities will also help Rice recruit athletes in the future.
“Athletes have always been drawn to Rice because of its strong academic reputation, but now when athletes look at Rice, they see a great school, and a school that wins conference championship,” Spriggs, a Weiss College senior, said. “With the building of new facilities, Rice is rewarding the athletes who have put so much time in already, and further attracting prospective athletes that are just going to build our program more and more.”
Rice does not sponsor men’s soccer as an NCAA sport.
Since the new facilities will remain unfinished through the soccer season, Mello said the athletic department plans to use temporary seating and other amenities at the current track and soccer facility until the spring semester.
According to a report by Rice News, the upgraded facilities will cost $2 million.
According to Mello, in addition to the new track and field and soccer facilities and a sports performance center currently under progress at Rice Stadium, there are plans in the conceptual stage for adding locker room space in the back of Tudor Fieldhouse where the old pool is currently. Mello also said the athletic departments is working on future plans for Reckling Park and Rice Stadium itself.
"We're in the first stages of a master plan to make some improvements at Reckling Park,” Mello said. “This is conceptual; we're looking at making some renovations to Rice Stadium, some concession upgrades, bathroom upgrades, maybe some premium seating."