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March 13, 2013
The view from high atop Williams-Brice Stadium looking out towards the renovated Farmers' Market area is breathtaking.
The other way around? Not so much.
So, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner, intends to do something about it. USC recently obtained Phase I approval for a multi-million project to turn the asphalt surrounding the 80,250-seat stadium where cars once sat into a plush area where greenery abounds.
"It's the 'Wow' factor you get now and it's part of the long-range plan to renovate around Williams-Brice," Tanner recently said on the weekly "Inside the Roost" program on 107.5 The Game. "We think what happened at the Farmers' Market has made that a special place in college football. When we have an opportunity to finish the plaza around the stadium, it will take us to another level."
Once all the approvals are secured within the next year or so, the plaza around Williams-Brice Stadium will have undergone an extensive face-lift, with trees and other greenery.
"We're going to make it aesthetically pleasing like we have at the Farmers' Market now," Tanner said.
But Tanner's wide-ranging plans don't stop at Williams-Brice Stadium. Some of the Olympic sports will also see significant upgrades to their facilities, a key for a well-balanced athletics program across the board.
"It's important to me that we provide the resources for all our student-athletes," Tanner insisted. "Every single sport we have should have the opportunity to compete at the highest level. I don't want our athletes to feel inferior to any other school -- Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, it doesn't matter to me. We want to be able to line up and compete and have the resources necessary to do that. The Board of Trustees has given us an opportunity to move closer to establishing that as a priority."
Tanner's message was clear: The SEC is more than just football. The excellence of the conference spreads to many sports. For example, the USC men's swimming team finished eighth in last week's conference championships, but is ranked 12th nationally.
And that's just one sport among many that the SEC typically dominates.
"That speaks volumes about competing in the SEC," Tanner said. "If you're going to line up and go play, you need the resources necessary to compete. Quite honestly, some of our sports fall short right now. But we're moving in the direction to give those athletes an opportunity to excel."
One of the teams targeted for upcoming improvements is the highly successful track and field program led by Curtis Frye, who has sought much-needed upgrades to the antiquated track facility for years.
In addition to converting the current fieldhouse to a top-notch six-track indoor facility capable of hosting winter meets, USC plans to build a new outdoor track close to the current one, another pleasing piece to the new-look Athletics Village.
"We haven't had any upgrades to our track program in a long, long time," Tanner said. "It's certainly necessary. We have a track in (the fieldhouse) now, but it's not a great track. We'll end up with a six-lane track inside the fieldhouse. So, there's a lot going on."
Locker rooms will be added underneath the year-old tennis complex in order to make it a comprehensive facility and perhaps enhance recruiting, Tanner said.
Across the street, the USC soccer programs should have a new building within a couple of years adjacent to Stone Stadium.
The latest intercollegiate sport, sand volleyball, will begin operations in the fall with an eye on competing at the NCAA level in spring 2014. Five beach volleyball courts will be constructed in the Athletics Village.
The Board of Trustees approved the sum of $995,000 to build the courts, a figure that's low enough under state law to allow the school to accelerate construction in order to meet the spring's deadline.
"We're going to move rapidly because we don't need to get a lot of the (same) approvals you need for some of the other projects," Tanner said, "We'll probably start construction of the sand courts in the summer and get the team out there in the fall and be ready to compete in the spring.
"Some of the other projects, the approval will take a little longer. Within the next two or three years, you'll start to see a lot of activity and hopefully the completion of a lot of these projects."
South Carolina NEWS