UT's new recreational fields have been a long time coming and it will be longer still before completion, which was originally scheduled for February and has since been pushed back.
The need for more recreational space for students was an issue on the Student Government Association senate's plate for more than a decade before the issue was addressed with the passage of the Bill for the Betterment of Student Activities in 2007.
Though the progress of the project has been delayed since then, postponement allowed for the area to develop more resiliency to consistent use. Once completed, the fields are expected to get more than seven hours of use a day from a multitude of sports, and the delays will make the grass and other elements of the fields sturdier.
"When we open, we want to do it right," Rex Pringle, the director of RecSports, said. "This is coming and it's going to be better than anything we've ever had ... when our facilities open, they immediately need to be able to manage all the activity."
The project faced the problematic issue of finding a location for the proposed extension to student recreational facilities. Eventually, in 2008, a decision was made to replace the Sutherland and Golf Range apartments, built in the 1960s and 1970s as married housing, with the recreational fields.
The university officially broke ground in the fall of 2011 to begin construction of the RecSports Fields at Sutherland Avenue.
"From an intramural standpoint we're adding more opportunities for students," Mario Riles, the intramural coordinator for RecSports, said. "We have waitlists for intramural teams and cannot accommodate the teams, but with this new facility we will go from supporting around 155 teams to up to nearly 300 or 400 intramural teams. With these new fields we would be able to have longer seasons as well as providing space for more sports."
The project has been estimated at around $14 million and will be funded with university program and service fees paid by undergraduate and graduate students. The facilities will include four natural grass multipurpose fields, two natural softball fields, four artificial turf multipurpose fields and sand volleyball courts for clubs and intramural teams. In addition, the recreational fields will house a centrally located pavilion and a building with offices and accommodations.
The RecSports Fields at Sutherland will cover an expanse of more than 38 acres of land that will allow the sports clubs to host home tournaments on campus.
In keeping with the Top 25 initiative, many qualities of the facilities will promote energy conservation. The lighting of the facility, including the parking lights, will all be LED lighting. The fields will also incorporate a self-sufficient irrigation system using a nearby scenic pond.
Pringle expressed his expectation that because of these improvements, the system will essentially pay for itself within a year and a half.