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November 6, 2012

Roost area continues to see change



The transformation of The Roost area took another major step forward recently with the dedication and grand-opening ceremonies for the state-of-the-art Rice Athletics Center, the new home of the re-invigorated South Carolina athletic department.

The RAC, which replaces the outdated Roundhouse, is located adjacent to the "wildly successful" Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center at the northeast corner of the new Athletics Village, and anchors the new courtyard there.

The new $8.5 million facility is a three-story, 68,683-square-foot building constructed of steel and concrete with brick and glass exterior.

"This athletic village connects the heart of the campus with almost all the way to Williams-Brice Stadium," USC president Harris Pastides said in remarks during the ceremony. "We'll get there someday, too. We'll finish all that. It's absolutely wonderful."

Pastides said the RAC complements the Dodie well as the buildings sit side-by-side in the renovated Roost area.

"The beauty of (the Dodie) is what goes on inside," Pastides said. "The learning, social networking, social support and advice our student-athletes receive from this university are second to none."

The first floor of the RAC includes a two-story-high Gamecock gallery with a trophy kiosk and graphics depicting a history of Gamecock athletics. Large (65-inch) TVs on each floor continuously stream great moments in Gamecock history.

The first floor also houses the Gamecock Club as well as media relations, marketing and the ticket office, making them easily accessible to the public.

The offices for most of the Gamecock Olympic sports are housed on the second floor, including tennis, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, track and field, equestrian and cheerleading.

While the football offices will remain at Williams-Brice Stadium and the offices for the baseball program will continue to reside at Carolina Stadium, most of the Gamecock athletic programs will be centralized within the RAC for the first time.

"This building unifies and symbolizes our athletics department in every way," USC athletic director Ray Tanner said during the ceremony. "After years of having our coaches and support staff work separately in makeshift offices or antiquated buildings, the Rice Athletic Center brings them together in a structure that allows us to work together more efficiently and projects the professionalism with which our staff has always worked."

Unlike the Roundhouse, which was typically off-limits for recruits, all of the Gamecock coaches will happily bring their prospects to the RAC.

"It provides our coaches a place to bring recruits and their families for visits and meetings, and displays our commitment to excellence beyond the playing fields," Tanner said. "And we finally have a home for the Gamecock Club that is worthy of its members and reflects the value we put upon their role in the success of our teams and athletes."

The office space in the RAC has been designed around a "pod" concept, in which each sport shares an open area with coach's and assistant coaches' offices on the perimeter.

Each pod is anchored by a conference room that brings in a great deal of natural light, visibility and openness. Each pod is connected to the central spine of the building by corridors with life-size graphics depicting each sport.

The third floor of the building houses the offices for general athletics administration (including Tanner), business and travel, and compliance departments. This level is enhanced by 24-foot ceilings and clerestory windows, bringing in even more natural light, and is highlighted by the Doyle and Dana McBride Terrace, a large recruiting deck overlooking the entire Athletics Village with incredible views of the Dodie, courtyard, new tennis facility and Williams-Brice Stadium.

"Investment of this magnitude in difficult economic times sends a strong signal to our other friends around the country, but in particular to our students here that there are people here and in our alumni network who deeply care about their well-being," Pastides said.

The completion of the RAC, which is about 15 percent more energy-efficient than typical office buildings, is one of the major projects in Phase II of the re-development of the Roost area. Phase II also included the new tennis complex and the ongoing $8 million project to overhaul Beckham Field, home of the USC softball program.

"Can you even remember what it used to be like a couple of years ago?," Pastides asked.

The project will nearly double the stadium's capacity to 1,350 seats. Beckham Field had been the smallest softball facility (700 permanent seats) in the SEC.

Phase III plans for the Roost re-development to feature a new basketball practice facility, athletic training complex and a new track and field complex. However, those projects are years down the road, and initial approvals likely won't be sought from the Board of Trustees and the appropriate governmental agencies until the new football practice fields and indoor facility are fully funded and approved.

"We have watched the athletic department grow and prosper," benefactor Joe Rice said. "This is an exciting time for the Gamecocks and we are excited to be part of South Carolina athletics' success at such a pivotal time in its history. Student-athletes are the core to success and they deserve the best we can give them."

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