KNOXVILLE — Administrators and student leaders from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, gathered with community members on Saturday to officially kick off the construction of long-awaited student recreation fields.
The fields will be built on the former site of the Sutherland and Golf Range apartment complexes, which closed earlier this year. Construction on the 38-acre complex is expected to begin by the end of the calendar year and take about two years.
Student Government Association (SGA) presidents from the past 12 years joined UT and community leaders for the ground-breaking ceremony. The event was held to recognize the efforts student, campus and community leaders have put forth for more than a decade to establish additional outdoor recreation space for UT students.
“It’s a great day for UT students and for the university,” said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “We sincerely appreciate our students’ patience as well as their diligence in helping to solve what has been a significant challenge. Our students deserve the very best academic and recreational facilities, and we are pleased to be on track to provide that in the near future.”
More than 25 sites were evaluated during the past several years for use as intramural, sports club and general student recreation areas. The Knoxville campus is adjacent to downtown Knoxville and is positioned along the Tennessee River and major interstates. Growth over the past few decades has limited the amount of available, flat land to accommodate the growing campus need, explained Tim Rogers, vice chancellor for student affairs. More than 10,000 students participate annually in UT sport clubs and intramural programs.
For many years, the campus has ranked last among its peer institutions in availability of outdoor space allocated to student recreation, according to survey data collected by the university. Relying on existing campus fields has presented significant scheduling challenges for students and limited UT’s ability to grow its popular recreation programs.
Rogers thanked the many student leaders who have been involved, along with members of the community, leaders in local government and UT administrators and trustees.
“This project is the result of the dedication of our students and administrators working alongside our neighbors and local leaders to enhance this space for the campus and surrounding community,” Rogers said. “These recreational fields will allow more students to participate in club sports at the university, and provide a link between the campus and the Bearden community.”
Rogers said the additional field space will be a community asset and fit in well with Bearden’s pedestrian-friendly development.
The plot along Sutherland Avenue was chosen due to its connection to the Third Creek Greenway, availability of utilities and proximity to campus. Tentative plans calls for eight multi-purpose fields, two softball fields and open green space as well as a first-aid stand and restrooms.
The project is funded through university program and services fees (commonly referred to as student activity fees), which are collected every semester from all full-time undergraduates and graduate students.
The university announced in February 2009 that its last existing graduate and married student complex would close after the spring 2010 semester. The decision was made after an extensive evaluation determined that it was not economically feasible to renovate the property due to the age of the buildings and decreasing demand for university-supplied graduate and married student housing.
Rebekah Winkler (865-974-8304, firstname.lastname@example.org)