USC is developing over 800 acres of land next to Williams-Brice Stadium, and with a lack of practice fields and overuse of current ones, some student leaders hope this will mean more space for club and intramural sports.
USC's current plan involves land stretching from the Long Family Football Operations Center to the Congaree River. Additional retail and shopping spaces are outlined in the plan, along with more luxury suites in the stadium and the potential creation of a sports facility next to the river.
The University of South Carolina currently ranks "dead last" in the SEC in terms of field green space for students, according to Michael Potter, associate director of campus recreation.
This lack of available recreational fields contributes to a variety of issues for club sports at the university.
An inability to host events due to space means that teams must travel to other schools and spend additional money on transportation fees and hotel rooms, Evan Sanderson a third-year biology student and president of the Gamecock Ultimate Frisbee Club said.
The university seems to conduct maintenance on the current recreational fields, Sanderson said, but the lack of expansive sports fields creates difficulties for the teams.
"We can't justify hosting any events because — unless it's like a three-team round, like something really small — we have to go to other schools for all these bigger tournaments," Sanderson said. "We don't have the facilities to put 16 teams anywhere."
The upkeep of fields also creates additional problems.
“Tiger Burn destroys the field because they don’t clean up any of the sand,” Sanderson said. “From December to February ... there’s just sand on the field. It's atrocious. They don’t clean it at all. So then we have to go out there and run in cleats and try to play in sand patches or dirt patches."
Constant practices also reduce the quality of the fieldsSanderson said. Adding more space would reduce the stress on current areas and allow for a better experience.
In the university's 2018 Master Plan, a document used to outline major infrastructure development, the university estimated that eight additional multi-purpose recreational fields would be needed by 2025. The campus master plan also recommended more soccer fields, beach volleyball spaces and tennis courts in conjunction with the addition of new multi-purpose fields.
The plan also recommended placing fields behind Gamecock Park, a tailgating and parking area located next to the Williams-Brice Stadium.
The university already owns the land it is planning on developing. The 300 acres outlined in the master plan for recreational fields were purchased by the USC Foundation, a combination of five foundations designed to support the missions of the university.
Senior Deputy Athletics Director Chance Miller said economic impact studies are currently being conducted to determine the feasibility of the development.
“In terms of developing it, this is the university and athletics and foundation land,” Miller said. “Whatever is developed on it, we want to make sure that it aligns with things that will help our community, help our university and help our athletics department.”
Right now, the only building on the land is USC's Huskey/Dietrich Golf Practice Facility. The area is a flood plain, which has caused issues with development in the past.
Columbia's historic flood in 2015 put the land underwater, and heavy storms can cause the river to to swell.
In 2015, Richland County won a lawsuit against developer Burroughs & Chapin, which had originally planned to build hotels and retail spaces on the "Green Diamond" site along Interstate 77. The court ruled that building on this land could endanger nearby residents due to potential flooding.
Federal restrictions designate 847 of USC's 889 acres as flood plains, slowing potential development due to the building regulations for flood protection.
These regulations could make the area ideal for sports fields and an additional golf course rather than large buildings according to Bill Stangler in a statement to the Carolina News and Reporter. Compared to fields, the construction of buildings is more costly and subject to tighter regulations.
However, a limited number of fields is not the only problem for club sports. Carolina Men's Club Golf President Tanner Reynolds said that the team would also appreciate a closer area to practice.
Although recreational areas next to the stadium would not be considered on-campus, Reynolds said they would be closer than where the team currently practices in Fort Jackson.
“All these courses are at least 20-minute drives. It doesn’t sound bad, but at the same time, if you're doing that repetitively, it gets bad,” Reynolds said. “(Many) kids don’t have cars — a lot of freshmen. So, figuring out rides for them, it becomes annoying a little bit.”
USC hopes to establish a similar lease for the Williams-Brice project. The university-owned land would be leased to potential developers to build, which would directly or indirectly benefit the university. This kind of partnership could take a variety of forms, from a flat yearly rate or a revenue share.
"(We want) a land lease to the developers that would be able to develop stuff on that (land) that would either benefit directly or indirectly back to the athletics department and the university, as well as the community," Miller said.