Over the next several months we will be unveiling plans for projects we are working on here in the athletic department and I plan to use this format to keep everyone updated on what we have been up to lately. I used to do Wednesday’s with Williams and View from the Corner Office. I liked that format to create an open line of communication with our fan base.
We had hit a point a few years ago where it seemed we were building something new or making major renovations every year. While some of that has slowed a bit, it doesn’t mean we stopped working. The newest projects that have been on our to-do list have taken a little more time as we have worked to secure funding and in several occasions, acquire land.
One of the projects we have been working on for a couple of years has been the Woodforest Athletic Center. In the spot that used to house the original Potato Shack, the university gave us the opportunity to take this space and turn it into a multipurpose facility.
We first started looking at this space nearly three years ago. When I was told the building was going to be allocated for athletics use, we got to work on how we were going to divide and utilize the more than 12,000 square foot space. To help with the construction and renovation of the building, Woodforest National Bank made a generous donation of 1.5 million dollars. There is no telling how many designs we went through as we looked at all options for how to best fill the space. I knew we wanted to have an academic area, but outside of that, it was pretty much an empty canvas for us to work with.
I held countless meetings with our coaches and administrative staff to find out what their needs were in terms or extra space. We looked at how we could create a work area that was a good balance of services to our athletes, offices for our staff and even looked to see if we could carve out a little storage space.
The building was ultimately divided up into six suites, including offices for our internal operations staff, ticketing, marketing, development, sports information, tennis and bowling. In addition to creating new office spaces, which we were in desperate need of, we also got the opportunity to expand our student athlete academic services area. With more than 400 student athletes in our department, it was imperative we had the space to operate to meet their needs as both students and athletes. The academic area includes 14 private computer work spaces, a tutoring area and a nutrition station.
Along with the academic services area, we were able to work with our campus IT department and build a 50-station computer lab that is exclusive to our student athletes during the day and then is opened up for all students in the evenings. Our athletes’ hours are often erratic and having a designated area for them to work without having to worry about where they are going to work and how long they will have to wait to get a computer station was important.
One of the goals of our department has always been about defining the student athlete experience, and our new academic services area and computer lab will help us do just that.
One of the other exciting additions to our department with the new facility was an expansion of our media area. Our Bearkat Sports Network staff and our sports information staff are now sharing a 2,700 square foot office suite that includes a 500 square foot studio that will be used for video productions, podcasts and photo shoots. The area also includes a control room for the studio as well as a second space designated for a future buildout for a centralized control room for our ESPN productions.
Our final office suite area was another one that was important for our growth and that was creating an office space for our external staff. As we have continued to expand that area of our department, we didn’t have a place for them to work. Our staff for marketing, promotions, corporate sales development and ticketing were spread out, with offices in four different facilities.
We are excited with all of the new projects that are on the horizon and I look forward to keeping you up to date as we continue to move this department forward.
-- Bobby Williams, Director of Athletics