School scores upgraded facilities

USF and Hillsborough County are teaming up to roll out $2.7 million in improvements to the University’s soccer field and track, a move USF Athletics officials hope will draw better athletes to the school.

The county offered the University money to renovate the campus’ soccer and track facilities in return for letting the county use the facilities for events ranging from high school track meets to Olympic Games, said Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation spokesman John Brill.

The facility — slated to be fully operational by Aug. 31 — has been renovated to meet NCAA and Olympic standards, and USF will be one of only four schools in the nation with a track featuring a Mondo Super X surface, similar to the surface used in the Beijing Olympic Games.

The renovations — carried out by Hunt Construction Corp., the same company that revamped Raymond James Stadium — also make the track wheelchair-friendly for events such as the Special Olympics.

As part of USF’s campaign to improve athletic facilities, the renovations could help USF recruit athletes and attract more students to sporting events.

“It’s almost that ‘If you build it, they will come’ concept,” said Scott Glaser, Sun Dome director.

Prospective athletes often look at a team’s facilities and equipment as much as its wins and losses, said George Kiefer, head coach of the men’s soccer team.

“It’s really going to put our track and soccer programs in positions to better compete and better recruit,” he said.

The track will also be expanded, allowing for a soccer field that will be bigger than a football field, and new sprinklers and lights will be installed.

An athletic runway — the area where athletes get a running start — will be added for track events such as the javelin throw, long jump and pole vault, along with new areas for the high jump, discus and hammer throw events.

Spectators can also keep track of points on a new LED scoreboard.

Under the agreement, USF’s athletic teams will have first priority when using the facility.

The county can schedule events that don’t interfere with USF Athletics and has priority over other third parties.

Brill said the county has partnered with other agencies before.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he said.