UTSA breaks ground on sports complex

Park West

On April 10, UTSA hosted the official groundbreaking ceremony for its upcoming athletics complex. Mayor Julian Castro, local community leaders, UTSA staff and students gathered at Park West to celebrate the start of construction on the multi-million dollar facility. Located near UTSA off of Hausman Road, Park West will eventually be home for the university’s athletics facilities.

Joining the mayor in attendance at the ceremony were State Senator Jeff Wentworth, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, City Councilman Reed Williams, businessman Red McCombs, key members of the UTSA administration and others. As guests arrived via car or university shuttle, they were greeted by select football, track and soccer student-athletes and entertained by the UTSA Pep Band.

Phase I of the complex – funded largely by $22.1 million from the city and county – includes 1,000-seat venues for track & field and soccer. The two venues will eventually feature 5,000 permanent seats each, with the initial 1,000-seat configurations and critical infrastructure scheduled to be ready by Fall 2013. The new track stadium, in particular, will be able to accommodate even large state and region-wide crowds upon completion. “5,000 seats would be permanent; (…) it would be set up so you could bring in 5,000 additional seats to cater to a larger event for 10,000 people,” University Architect Doug Lipscomb said. The complex will one day include football practice fields, baseball and softball stadiums and tennis courts.

According to Lipscomb and Athletics Director Lynn Hickey, plans for the complex have changed. “The (football stadium has) effectively been taken out of the Master Plan,” Lipscomb said. Last year, UTSA officials distanced the university from the idea of a Park West stadium, citing a lack of space and the first-class fan and athlete experience at the Alamodome. Hickey solidified this position, saying, “We have a great place to play in the Alamodome, and we do not have enough land at Park West to accommodate a football stadium and the necessary parking.  We have a great situation with the City of San Antonio in utilizing the Alamodome and are currently working on finalizing a long term contract for UTSA Football in the Alamodome.”

President Ricardo Romo opened the ceremony with a speech emphasizing Park West’s importance to UTSA’s Tier One aspirations. “The new athletics complex will be a top-notch collegiate facility capable of hosting national and international events (… and) is another example of how UTSA is transforming into a Tier One university,” Romo said.

Castro echoed those comments, adding, “I’ve said before that I consider the city to be a servant to our universities. In this 21st-century global economy, you’d be hard pressed to find institutions that are more valuable economically to a city than a university. The city of San Antonio is committed to building up a first-class Tier One university here at UTSA.” Park West will be an asset for the city as much as for UTSA, bringing an estimated $193 million in tourism and business dollars to San Antonio in its first few years of operation.

Castro also spoke about the importance of the 2012 San Antonio bond election, which would fund various city infrastructure projects if approved by voters in May. “Councilman Williams and I have worked together to make sure UTSA is a piece of the (bond) puzzle,” Castro said. Though no part of the $596 million bond package is apportioned specifically to UTSA, a number of roads used to access UTSA’s Main and Downtown Campuses would be expanded or improved. According to Williams and mayoral assistant Jaime Castillo, the big piece is a proposed $44 million expansion of Hausman Road, which would affect traffic to Main Campus as well as Park West. “(The bond package includes) major improvements to Hausman Road, which is a major thoroughfare around the UTSA Main Campus. Those improvements total $43.5 million and are included in Propositions 1 and 2.  In Prop 1, there is $30 million recommended to widen and reconstruct Hausman Road with additional travel lanes, curbs, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, etc. In Prop 2, there is an additional $13.5 million targeted for drainage improvements at Hausman to include an underground storm drain system,” Castillo said.

The Master Plan provides for a conceptual basketball / volleyball arena at the north end of Park West, but only tentative plans have been made so far. The university still needs to find funding before proceeding, possibly in a collaboration with the Northside Independent School District (NISD). Hickey emphasized that nothing is set at this time. “there have been no specific discussions on our campus regarding a new (arena) at Park West.  We have had some very preliminary conversations with NISD about the potential of sharing the costs and use of a new Convocation Center – but nothing has moved forward at this time, except that it is a good idea to review and consider. There are no plans in place at this time and the few conversations that we have had are just that – conversations – looking at a way for a potential partnership,” Hickey said. Senior Associate Athletics Director Brad Parrott agrees, elaborating, “UTSA has been in informal discussions with NISD about a 12,000 seat arena, but nothing has been decided yet.”

Other facilities at Park West will include a fan amenities building in Phase I, and eventually a team building or buildings. “Generally there’s between 75,000-100,000 square feet of space that needs to (be built at Park West) for locker rooms, training rooms, weight rooms, team meeting rooms, those kinds of things,” said Lipscomb.