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A facility revealed

After many setbacks and much political wrangling, it appears USF is on the verge of getting a new athletic facility.

The announcement came at a ceremony held on what is now the intramural sports area – the future location of the facility – and featured a virtual tour of the more than 100,000-square-foot building.

Construction of the two-story, $13.2 million facility, which will house every USF sports program, is expected to begin in 2004 and be completed in 2005.

USF President Judy Genshaft said the facility would benefit the entire university, not just USF’s athletics, because it raises the university’s stature.

“It definitely puts the university on the map,” Genshaft said. “It’s part of the whole rise of the university in every single way.”

Randy Simmons, chairman of R.R. Simmons Construction, the firm handling the project, said while the facility has many noteworthy features, the fact that every USF sports program will be in one building is its greatest advantage.

“Being able to pull everybody into one building is a plus,” Simmons said. “Having the resources in one place where the student athletes can go and have a structured environment and have a first-class learning environment is a real plus.”

Simmons said some of the facility’s highlights include a fully equipped, state of the art weight room, an academic enrichment center and a media room for holding press conferences. In addition, Simmons said a “Hall of Fame” will be included to house all of USF’s sports memorabilia under one roof for the first time.

“Now we’re able to pull all of that memorabilia and history of the university back into one location where people can come in and get a sense of what’s gone on since 1960,” Simmons said.

The designing of the building, done in consultation with the architectural firm HOK, was tricky, Simmons said, because the facility had to fit within the overall framework of future projects laid out in USF’s master plan. He said plans to build more baseball fields and pedestrian walks in the area over the next five to 10 years had to be taken into consideration when designing the facility.

Simmons also said that because USF officials were anxious to get the project rolling, his firm was contracted to both build and design the facility. He said the so-called “design-build” format is an unusual approach, but it’s much more efficient than other methods.

“Everybody’s wanted to move this project along, and this was a way to do that,” Simmons said.

USF Director for Athletics Lee Roy Selmon said donations and bond issues are the primary sources of funding for the facility. Selmon said he hopes to raise between $5.3 million and $10 million in donations, but that no date has been set by which to meet this goal.

Besides raising enough funds, Selmon said the Florida Board of Education still has to approve the project. Selmon said he will present the final plans to the board in January and if it’s approved, construction should begin shortly thereafter.

Jim Leavitt, head coach of USF’s football team, said he’s waited a long time for a new athletic facility.

“I’ve always wanted to have something like this,” Leavitt said. “It’s certainly something we needed.”