USC is looking to expand Greek Village by building more houses on Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center's fields.
The area is currently being used as three recreational fields and consists of land plots owned by USC and leased from nearby railroad owner Norfolk Southern Railway.
University architect Derek Gruner said the most logical area for expansion on campus is next to the Strom Thurmond Fitness and Wellness Center. A USC 2018 Master Plan shows four houses intented to be placed on university-owned land and two on leased land, totaling more than three acres.
The university submitted a request for recommendations from the Commission of Higher Education on June 1, 2023, to examine acquiring new parcels. The initial phase requested $20,000 from institutional funds and did not list dates for the project.
Almost 30% of the student body is involved in Greek life. In April, Two sororities lost their leased houses, causing an increased demand for accommodation. Because of this, Gruner said the university is contemplating possible locations for expansion.
“I understand from student affairs that there are certain chapters that desire to have a house that don’t have a house,” Gruner said. “We’re trying to be responsive to them.”
However, Gruner said acquiring the leased land from Norfolk Southern Railway generates difficulties for the project. The company has indicated it could be willing to sell, but the university must go through the process of investigating what the land is worth, he said.
“The two challenges with that are that we don’t own all that land,” Gruner said. “We lease it, and we use it for rec fields.”
Grant Howard, a fourth-year sport management student and the president of the South Carolina men’s rugby club, said his team uses Strom Thurmond's recreational fields for smaller, less official practices.
“It’s difficult because, for us, we use the space predominantly as a captain’s practice space and a place just to gather and go for a run, which would stink if that went away,” Howard said.
Removing the area could be harmful to the larger student body, according to Associate Director of Campus Recreation Michael Potter.
“We are dead last in the SEC in field green space for students, and so taking away two major fields of student usage would significantly impact (the student body)," Potter said. "If those were taken up, that would pretty negatively impact the student body and campus recreation programs.”
There are no “immediate plans” for expansion, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Carli Mercer said in an email to The Daily Gamecock. Mercer said the department is receiving feedback about the project through conversations with chapter leaders.
If the current recreation fields were to be removed, Gruner said that other areas would be used as replacements.
“I can’t speak in great specifics, but just know that we are also trying to look for opportunities for rec fields elsewhere on campus,” Gruner said. “If we were to repurpose some of those rec fields, we would try to replace them with rec fields somewhere else on campus.”