Tanner seeks longer ‘A’ list of USC facilities

Athletics director cites two of 21 venues as being among nation’s best

ashain@thestate.comAugust 26, 2013 

Carolina Stadium

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

USC athletics director Ray Tanner said two of 21 Gamecock sports have “A-rated” facilities, and he’s looking forward to another round of upgrades that could elevate the school’s other teams.

Tanner said the baseball and softball teams, which have new stadiums, are the only Gamecock squads with facilities among the best in the nation. The $36 million baseball stadium opened in 2009, while the $8 million softball stadium debuted this year.

“When you look at a program as a prospect, are there any obstacles, are there any negatives?” Tanner asked. “It’s arguable right now with baseball and softball with the facilities that they have … they’re in a very good place. You start breaking down the other sports, there’s needs.”

Some non-revenue sports — such as track, soccer and tennis — are getting upgrades already as part of more than $50 million in projects USC trustees approved earlier this year. The school also has spent more than $150 million in facilities for teams and fans since 2005.

But the 78-year-old Williams-Brice Stadium needs more work, Tanner said when asked what he wanted in the future.

“We think very special, but where do we rank in the SEC?” he said. “We’re not in the top four or five.”

After current projects in the pipeline are completed, USC will have spent some $65 million in improvements to the stadium and other football-related facilities since coach Steve Spurrier arrived in 2005.

Work includes: $30.5 million for a new tailgating lot at the old State Farmers Market; $17.5 million for new indoor and outdoor practice fields; $6.5 million for a new video board; $5.9 million on suite and club upgrades that draw big donors; $3.4 million for training and locker room makeovers; $473,000 to upgrade the room where recruits are pitched; and $355,000 for a new football lobby.

All sports projects are paid by athletics revenue, bonds backed by athletics revenues and booster contributions. No public money is used.

“We certainly have done a lot of things, but (from) where I sit now, are there areas we can grow? Absolutely,” Tanner said.

USC needs more suites and clubs on the east side of the stadium and new coaches offices and meeting areas, Tanner said. Only Vanderbilt has fewer suites than USC in the conference, he said.

No timetables or cost estimates have been announced.

For the school’s other revenue generating sport, USC basketball could use its own practice facility. The men’s and women’s teams share a practice court next to Carolina Coliseum with the volleyball team.

The school has long-range plans for a basketball practice facility that include offices at the Athletics Village on the south side of campus.

“It’s important for us to move in that direction as fast as we can,” Tanner said. “They become A-rated in facilities” with the new practice building.

Tanner said he is pleased, however, with the new $1 million basketball locker rooms at Colonial Life Arena.

Some of the Gamecock team facilities shortcomings are being addressed.

USC trustees approved $18.5 million in plans this year for locker and meeting rooms for the soccer and tennis teams, and new outdoor and indoor tracks for the track and field teams. Much of the work should be done by 2015.

“That’s going to put them in a very good position. Does that mean they will have the best facility in the country or the SEC? I don’t know if that will be the case,” Tanner said. “I’m not one that says, ‘You’ve got to have the best. It’s got to be at the top.’ But you need to be in the conversation.”

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