Resort facilities

UTSA takes next step on long list of facility projects with grand opening of Park West Fieldhouse

As construction equipment hummed and beeped in the background, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy paused to celebrate the groundbreaking at the Park West Fieldhouse for a moment Thursday before moving on to the element next in a “long list” of future installation projects.

Providing basics, including locker rooms and team meeting space for UTSA’s football and athletics programs, the $8 million, 14,325 square foot facility is expected to be completed in by the end of April 2023.

The project was originally planned in conjunction with the Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence building, which opened last year, before being moved to a future phase. In February, the Bexar County Commissioners Court committed $8 million to the project over three years, triggering construction.

But UTSA’s move to the American Athletic Conference next summer accentuates other long-standing needs. A training facility for the basketball and volleyball program and a football training pavilion at RACE are remaining elements of the school’s “Bold Champions” initiative, along with new competition venues for basketball and volleyball as well as baseball and softball considered long-term goals.

“Where we want to take athletics requires investment in facilities and program budget, and we have a lot of work to do in both places,” said Eighmy. “But we are making solid incremental progress as we go. We can’t fix everything all at once, but we’re on the right track.

Eightmy and UTSA athletic director Lisa Campos said Thursday that the nearly 50,000-square-foot basketball and volleyball practice facility attached to the RACE building was the next point in the pipeline. ‘agenda. The project jumped to the top of the list in May, when voters passed the City of San Antonio’s 2022-27 bond program, earmarking $5 million for the project.

While Eightmy said the commitment was enough to trigger the initial planning and design of the facility, he and Campos did not attach a schedule to the project, citing the need to raise more funds over the projected total cost. of $30 million.

Eighmy said UTSA is “talking to our friends here in San Antonio about raising” $20 million for the facility, which could be enough to start construction through the Foundation. Roadrunner. UTSA funded the RACE facility using a similar approach.

“That leaves us with another five (million) to fundraise for, and maybe we could go on with more money in hand without having all 30 in place,” Eighmy said. “By the end of the year, we’ll have a better idea of ​​how fast we can build this.”

Campos and Eighmy each recognized the potential for additional county funding to help with the basketball and volleyball facility, as well as other future projects.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who is retiring at the end of the year, said he expects the county to continue contributing to UTSA facilities.

“At some point I think they will,” Wolff said. “I don’t know if it will be done in the little time I have left, but I think at some point it will be. They have a lot of good projects they want to do.

Speaking from the podium at Thursday’s groundbreaking, Wolff said he “would like to see a ballpark that could be shared with Double-A missions.” Minor league club San Antonio has long sought a replacement for its current home at Wolff Stadium, with rising MLB standards for facilities only amplifying the conversation.

Campos said UTSA “will continue to explore” the possibility of collaborating with the Missions on a grassroots stadium project – discussions she said date back to her first meetings after taking over as AD in November 2017 .

Eighmy said the school is “interested in anything we can do to support a new facility for men’s baseball on campus.” Wolff said two private groups discussed building a Missions stadium, one focusing on downtown and the other looking “here closer to their campus.”

Last month, developer Weston Urban reportedly worked to acquire property near San Pedro Creek for construction of a Missions baseball stadium.

“So far, there’s been nothing definitive from either of them in terms of getting the pitch and getting started,” Wolff said. “So, I’m not sure. Eventually, something will happen. »

Campos said UTSA was working on “minor renovations” to existing baseball and softball facilities, as well as options to fund football practice field coverage at RACE.

One avenue the program is considering, Campos and Eighmy said, is to fund the project by monetizing the use of rooftop solar panels.

“I don’t have a schedule for the indoor pavilion, but we’re still working on it,” Campos said. “We are looking at all options to complete this project.”

Campos and Eighmy also pointed out that a basketball arena was needed to meet rising standards with the move to AAC.

“We have work to do to determine where we will eventually try to play competitive men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball,” said Eighmy. “At some point, we’re going to have to do something other than the Convocation Center.”

The Park West Fieldhouse is expected to include a multi-purpose community room, locker rooms, team lounges, sports medicine center and equipment area.

UTSA missed hosting some events at the site due to lack of locker rooms and meeting spaces, Campos said, and the new construction expands the facility’s potential for public use. The department also “significantly improved” the public’s ability to request use of RACE and Park West by revising the online interface, Campos said.

Wolff said the facility’s ability to serve the surrounding community was critical to the county’s willingness to contribute.

The Park West Fieldhouse is also aligning with gender equity and Title IX compliance by supporting primarily female athletes at UTSA, and Wolff said county funding is seen as a supplement to the $15 payout. million in 2008 to help with the initial construction of the facility.

The county’s $8 million is funding the bulk of the project, with help from a few supporters who bought naming rights or made other contributions, Campos said.

“When you look at our facilities at all levels for female student-athletes, even though we are making improvements, there is still a lot of growth to be done,” Campos said. “To have this flagship project for women’s soccer and women’s athletics, it is important for us to give them the resources.”

greg.luca@express-news.net

Twitter: @GregLuca