The days of UTSA athletics being played on campus are numbered. Last week the university received $15 million from Bexar County to be used in the construction of a new athletic complex on the 125 acres of land the University purchased between Hausman Road and Loop 1604.
The $15 million is the last money UTSA will receive under the terms of an agreement with the city of San Antonio, Bexar County and UTSA that began following the passing of a bond election in 2003. Currently the university has $22.05 million which will be used to build a new soccer specific stadium, a new track stadium and practice fields for football.
“In 2003 we got our first county bond money, which was $1.5 million. We are still working under that contract. About two years later we got 5.5 million,” Athletic Director Lynn Hickey said. “Right before Christmas the city approved that contract. Just this last week we finished the contract to get the 15 million from the revenue tax election in 2007.”
The first goal of the new athletic complex will be to provide the university as well as the city with first-rate athletic fields, according to Hickey.
“What we promised through the whole process is that the first facilities that we would build would be a stand-alone soccer facility and a stand-alone track facility,” Hickey said. “Within the community there is not a soccer facility with seating on both sides, and there is not a track with Olympic size running lanes. To help the community as well as our sports and all of south Texas, we would build these facilities to be used as competition venues.”
In addition to being available for city use, the new venues would be open to host athletic competitions on all levels.
“Under UT rules we can sponsor and host competitions for youth, UIL high school, collegiate and international.”
The next phase would be a new baseball facility, softball facility and tennis facility. The baseball facility would be capable of hosting minor league baseball.
“If a AAA team is brought to San Antonio, we would love to collaborate with them and build that facility at Park West. That’s kind of a vision,” Hickey said. “There would be a lot of legal work done to see how a public university would share with a pro team but it has been done across the country.”
Whether or not the San Antonio Missions move up from AA to AAA, UTSA would go forward with a new baseball stadium in the complex.
“If that doesn’t happen, we will just do our thing. What this is going to do by moving out there is opening up to our intramurals and recreation to use where we are currently located,” Hickey said. “Also for the new dorm they want to build there is a potential they would have to dig ditches through both the tennis courts and the softball field.”
The move to Park West will make a large part of the campus open for academic use or for new housing.
“More and more the university as a whole needs the land we occupy for housing and research. There are new buildings being built on the other side of the baseball stadium,” Hickey said. “This will help the main campus to finish their academic plan.”
Hickey expressed hope that within a few years the second phase is also complete.
“We can’t wait 10 years with the baseball facility we have now. My hope is in five years we can get these other projects started,” Hickey said. “This project alone is just $84 million and that’s having already paid $20 million for the land. Then the new convocation center would be $80-100 million depending on how much you want to put in it.”
The capacity of a new convocation center would be 10,000-12,000 with practice facilities for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, which would open up the main floor for moneymaking events such as concerts.
“I would like to go for 12,000. You could say 10,000 which is larger than what we have now but for graduation alone 12,000 would be optimal,” Hickey said. “To think long term, 12,000 would be the best. The venue could also be used as a concert venue. This would be a great piece towards moving into other conferences.”
While every sport would be represented at the new complex, football would only practice at the facility. Games would remain at the Alamodome.
“There will not be a football stadium on this complex. With the parking needs you would have I don’t think there is enough land,” Hickey said. “We are going to play downtown. It is the best indoor facility in Texas. I am not going to turn that down.”
Following the upcoming football season, Hickey pointed to the possibility of a new, longer contract between UTSA and the county.
“After this first year we are going to work with them on a longer agreement,” Hickey said. “We need to get through this first year to see what works, what doesn’t work so that when we come back together we have a better idea how to draw up a long term contract.”
Currently the athletic program faces a shortage of office space that would be remedied upon completion of a 100,000 square foot team building that could house coaches offices, dressing rooms, training rooms, weight rooms and equipment rooms.
Until that building is complete the athletic department would operate out of modular buildings on the site.
“What we may have to do is get a few modular buildings like the one Coach Coker is in now and build the fields and live out of modular buildings and then later build the team building,” Hickey said. “I have 15 staff members that basically don’t have a place to sit, including three new football coaches. This is really, really urgent. Space is an issue for us.”
While the athletic program would move out to Park West, the student athletes would still live on campus and the student athletes’ academic center would remain on campus for convenience.
“I don’t think it would benefit us to move it,” Hickey said. “Now the kids can go by and see their advisor, study or use a computer lab but if we move it out there they would have to get in a car or get on a shuttle bus.”
The third phase would include a retail area that would provide a place for UTSA fans to congregate before and after events and also provide a place where for students to meet.
For Lynn Hickey the most important step is to have the athletic fields up and running but she isn’t afraid to look down the road.
“In 10 years I think we can have this all done,” Hickey said.