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Athletic facilities approved

By Johanna Ohm     1/10/12 6:00pm

With the start of a new semester come plans for a new athletics facility on the south side of campus. The Rice University Board of Trustees approved the $44.5 million project, which includes renovations to the current football stadium and the addition of a new two-story training complex for athletes, at its December board meeting. The Board did not allocate any university funds for the project, meaning all $44.5 million is expected to come from donors and fundraising.

Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan said the athletics department is eager to work on the project and has begun fundraising with the help of alumni and friends and with the support of President David Leebron and the Board of Trustees.

Greenspan said no construction will begin until the entire amount is either pledged or received.

The new 81,000-square-foot building will house coaching offices, meeting rooms and a state-of-the-art sports medicine center open to all student-athletes. Included in the facility will be a zero-gravity treadmill, more comprehensive training equipment and a hydrotherapy treatment area.

The new building is estimated to take 18 months to construct. The old facilities will not be demolished until the new building is in place to prevent disruptions to training.

The accepted proposal also includes plans for the demolition of the building that currently houses the R Room, weight room and football team locker rooms, as well as improvements to the restroom and concession facilities in the stadium.

"The new facility will take some stress off the facilities in Tudor Fieldhouse and have similar facilities to Tudor, but will be bigger and more comprehensive," Greenspan said.

Greenspan also said he hopes the plans will enhance the aesthetics of the stadium, creating a more receptive space. The appearance of the stadium entrance will be improved with the creation of an open plaza outside the main gate and a grassy area for people to sit and watch games, Greenspan said.

"We wanted to invest in the stadium because it's historical and has had some infrastructure issues in the past," Greenspan added. "The bones of the stadium are very good, but we need to adapt to fill certain needs and uses."

James Crownover, chair of the Board of Trustees, said he sees the accepted proposal as a promising step toward a stronger athletics department.

"I think it will support more unity among the athletic teams and is a great first step forward in helping [develop stronger] student-athletes," Crownover said. "[It will also] help us recruit better, more competitive teams."

Crownover said he feels the plan to improve football facilities is overdue. The stadium has seen few renovations since its original construction in 1950. Recent improvements to volleyball, track and tennis facilities have made football one of the few teams that hasn't seen large-scale improvements in training facilities.

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