Intramural fields to undergo renovations in mid-October

Reanna Zuniga

A total renovation of Whitaker Fields is set for mid-October, which will affect the schedules of the intramural sports for the year.

Jennifer Speer, associate director of communications assessment and development at UT RecSports, said the University is trying to keep all disruptions to the intramural schedules minimal despite
the renovations.

The $23-million project was first taken to the Board of Regents for approval earlier this year and is anticipated to complete in the fall of 2016. The main focus of the renovations is a new entry building with single-entry access so students can swipe their cards in one place for equipment checkout.

All of the scheduled sports will have an altered game schedule, with some being shortened and others lengthened. Both soccer and football will have an abbreviated schedule with one less game.

“I think most students are excited about the renovations and are willing to have one less game for the new facilities,” Speer said.

Indoor basketball will have an expanded schedule, but softball, a spring intramural sport, may not have a season this year because of the renovations.

“We know a lot of the students play multiple sports, and even though we had to shorten some schedules, we’ve extended others so students will still be able to have the chance to play the sports they like,” Speer said.

According to Speer, every intramural sport except softball has found an alternative spaces to play. Speer said RecSports is searching for a new location, and it should reach a final decision before construction begins in October.

“Worst-case scenario is that softball doesn’t happen next year,” Speer said. “Our goal is to find an alternative space for them to play.”

Many students are excited by the prospect of updated facilities at Whitaker Fields, but some are disappointed that they may miss the opportunity to play intramural softball this year.

“I think that overall the renovation will have a positive impact on the I.M. experience by creating a welcoming atmosphere rather than the mysterious vast amounts of green fields that it is now,” government junior Zachary Cochran said. “I think that in the long run it will be worth experiencing the cut for a year, but for the meantime, I would be extremely saddened by not being able to play
I.M. softball.”

The most recent renovations to the fields were made over 30 years ago, despite the wear and tear that comes from almost 260,000 participation hours each year in student recreation.

Speer said the fields will be completely redone and a new irrigation system will be put in place to reduce the carbon footprint. New natural grass fields are the main reason for the construction beginning in the fall.

“The schedule allows us to plant grass during the optimal window and offer intramural programs each fall semester, which we believe is a win-win,” Speer said. “Grass needs to be planted mid-late spring for the best chance of growing success, so the schedule was designed around that and the ability to offer abbreviated field sports seasons in both fall 2015 and fall 2016.”

Exercise science sophomore Andrew Thompson, whose favorite intramural sport is softball, said the fields were in the most need of repair.

“The fields needed a new grass and leveling-of-the-ground updates,” Thompson said.

Intramural flag football games begin Sunday, Sept. 13. Each division’s regular season will last three weeks.