June 8, 2012
By Jeff Geiser
CINCINNATI — While many students and faculty members look forward to a break from classes as the 2011-12 academic year approaches its end, the University of Cincinnati Department of Athletics is gearing up for a number of facility-enhancement projects over the course of the summer.
According to UC Athletic Director Whit Babcock, these projects are part of a facilities master plan that emphasizes the department’s commitment to long-term success.
“It’s an exciting era in UC athletics and facilities can be our edge,” Babcock said. “We can’t necessarily compete with everybody budget-wise, but our facilities can be our edge. We have some wonderful ones here, but we need to keep enhancing and improving them. We’re looking at it more comprehensively; what are we going to do over the next five years, not just the next five months.”
The facility upgrades include aesthetic and acoustic upgrades with the practice gymnasium located below Fifth Third Arena, replacing the Gettler Stadium FieldTurf and completing the construction of the Sheakley Athletics Center. Additionally, the main basketball floor in Fifth Third Arena will undergo a redesign and resurfacing for next season.
The practice gym, which is used primarily by volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball, will receive new acoustic panels from ZSR Construction and Restoration. The acoustic panels will feature dynamic graphics that pay tribute to the athletic accomplishments of Bearcats basketball and volleyball, while enhancing the overall aesthetics of the gym.
The installation of FieldTurf Revolution, FieldTurf’s newest, top-of-the-line monofilament surface, is set to begin Monday at Gettler Stadium, the home of UC men’s and women’s soccer, as well as track and field. The previous turf, which had an average lifespan of seven years, was in its ninth year of usage and was no longer up to par to the standards set forth by the UC administration. Once Gettler Stadium has been resurfaced, the FieldTurf focus will shift toward Nippert and Marge Schott stadiums.
“Hopefully the practice gym and the Gettler Stadium enhancements are just scratching the surface of where we’re headed,” said Babcock. “Every day in athletics, you either get better or worse; you never stay the same. We have to keep advancing UC athletics, but we have to do it in a fiscally-responsible manner. We will have to rely on our UCATS donors to help.”
Also on the forefront of the department’s summer projects is the completion of Sheakley Athletics Center construction, which is expected toward the end of the summer. The Sheakley Athletics Center, which houses an indoor practice bubble for more than six months out of the year, will be the new home for the lacrosse program starting in the spring of 2013. It will also continue to serve as the primary practice site for UC Football.
“The Sheakley Athletic Complex project was started before I got here,” Babcock stated. “It was an absolute necessity, which certainly helps football, but we’ve seen almost as much benefit for baseball, track, soccer, lacrosse obviously, and so on when they use that indoor facility year round.
“It’s one of those things where now that we have it, I don’t know how in the heck we’d do without it,” Babcock added.
As part of the athletic department’s long-term facility plans, upgrades to Nippert Stadium and Fifth Third Arena are in the conceptual phases.
“We’ve got to continue to look at what we’re going to do with Nippert Stadium,” said Babcock. “Right now we’re focusing on studying the west side of the stadium and our options there. We don’t have anything set firmly on that, just working on what options we may have there for new premium seating. I don’t want to put a time frame on it, but hopefully not in the incredibly distant future, we can really do some work to bring the west side of Nippert Stadium up to speed, as well as Fifth Third Arena.
(Deleted some here) “Our Olympic facilities are pretty darn good, but we need to really elevate our football and basketball, too.”
Also in the conceptual phase is an aesthetic interior upgrade to the Richard E. Lindner Center, specifically the first five floors of athletic department’s administrative building.
“We’re looking at floors one through five in (the Lindner Center); modernizing and updating the graphics and other things,” said Babcock. “We want to get some conceptual renderings and pricing and that’ll be some of the things that we raise money for. We’d like to get our fourth-floor lobby, which is really sharp, and modernize that, as well as our academic areas and locker rooms. It’s important to keep the building fresh and be able to acknowledge our championships and success from a recruiting standpoint, but also from a fan standpoint. We want our first impressions to be really sharp.”
While there is a need to continuously evolve and improve, Babcock is happy with the design and layout of all of UC’s facilities.
“The fact that we have our own Olympic village, Varsity Village; I couldn’t be more thrilled to have it all right here. To have everybody in the department under one roof in this building is truly a great advantage. Most other athletic departments don’t have that, and everybody working together in the Lindner Center certainly ties into the Bearcat Family theme we speak to frequently.”