RecSports complex nears unveiling

The new facility scheduled to open August 30th.

Football isn't the only department picking up momentum at UT this summer.

The new RecSports Fields Complex on Sutherland Avenue has been building excitement for its grand opening on Friday, Aug. 30.

"Our goal is to be able to allow some of our programs in the form of recreation prior to that as they need to be," assistant director Becky Dahl said. "Construction was ongoing throughout the spring. The original date that they wanted to have open was January 2013, but that was delayed for a variety of reasons so we have kind of taken over the daily maintenance. So you'll see our staff out there maintaining the facility at this point and they're still finishing up some of the punch-list items."

The 3.8-acre complex began development during fall of the 2011 semester. Estimated at $14 million, the fields feature four natural grass multipurpose fields, two natural softball fields, four artificial turf multipurpose fields and two sand volleyball courts.

The project adds to an already-established partnership between UT sports and local businesses. Neal Kelly, general manager of Dead End BBQ, outlined some of the business ventures he has had with UT.

"Obviously we're two miles from campus and we're supportive," he said. "Whether it's 'Wing Night' or we do a lot of stuff with the sports teams like catering to just a comfortable place for students and faculty.

"With (the RecSports fields) going in across the street, I mean that's icing on the cake, right?"

Kelly is also preparing to take advantage of Dead End's convenient location.

"We're also considering expanding our hours to accommodate the field," the restaurant manager said "If they're open until 11 p.m. on a Friday night or something going on over there, we may extend our hours. We're going to put in place a means to deliver food across the street so if somebody says, 'Hey we're on field No. 2 and we need 54 sandwiches, we'll deliver them across the street. Obviously, we can just walk."

Kelly won't have to extend hours too far. UT sport club and intramural field expansion to Sutherland Avenue has helped cut down on late night games. Close to many suburban homes, it'll be a work in progress to balance student schedules and residences.

"Part of that is to be mindful of the fact that we're relocating to a neighborhood where there are local residences in the community so that we're not very disruptive," Dahl said. "We've been trying to be very aware of that, but also to accommodate the students' schedules at the same time. I think there'll be some adjusting as this whole year goes on and we see what's working and what's not working and try to evaluate as we go."

Field expansion has also provided more future participation. Dahl said new tournaments will be implemented, ranging from utimate frisbee to softball.

"We're able to expand that and different sports will be different numbers, but (we will have) a minimum of four, (and) up to six fields for different sports, which will greatly increase the number of offerings available," Dahl said. "I'm confident to say that anybody or any team that wants to play will be able to play provided they have a little flexibility in their schedule."

However, even with the location convenient to many other Knoxvillians, the complex will remain closed to the public due to student funds.

"If they are not associated with the university," Dahl said, "then they would not be eligible because it is funded by the student fees. We want to make sure that the people who are paying the fees are the only ones benefitting."

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