USF Sarasota-Manatee athletic courts project nears completion

Crews continue work Friday on the new basketball court at USF Sarasota-Manatee

Crews continue work Friday on the new basketball court at USF Sarasota-Manatee

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 1, 2015) – Finishing touches were made a month ago to the volleyball court and in matter of weeks the basketball court will be ready for play.

At the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, students are making their voices heard on scores of new projects around campus.

The courtyard and barbecue area built west of the campus building six years ago is one example. The latest is the basketball and volleyball courts.

Initiated by student government, the two-part project was funded by $260,000 in Capital Improvement Trust Fund monies – fees paid by students to support non-academic projects.

Student representatives met with campus administration last summer to urge that the funds go toward the athletic facilities. Administrators readily agreed.

Incoming student body President Alex Benishek said the project’s motivation was two-fold: To carve out a relaxed, student-friendly atmosphere appropriate to campus life and to leave a legacy at USF Sarasota-Manatee, while urging successive classes to leave their mark as well.

“We heard from students that this is what they wanted,” he said. “A lot of students said they wanted to stay on campus (after classes), but there are not a lot of recreational options.”

Freshmen, in particular, wanted more on-campus activities, he said.

Local architects Fawley Bryant and general contractor Willis Smith Construction were hired to design and build the courts. Work began in January. The sand volleyball court, next to the barbecue area, was finished a few weeks ago.

The basketball court is taking longer because workers needed to relocate a water line and other utilities before starting construction. The project will wrap up later this month.

Richard Lyttle, the campus’ director of facilities and planning, said crews need to finish adding the lighting, landscaping and a water fountain.

They also plan to add a thick green coating to the blacktop, striping and a green-and-gold USF logo at the center of the court.

The surface needs to cure a week or so before applying the coating. Altogether, he estimates another three or four weeks, weather permitting, before everything is finished.

“It’s a nice project. It’s their legacy really,” he said, referring to the students.

Benishek said he’s pleased by the result so far.

“It’s great. It’s very impressive. It’s great to see how a student government plan works and to see it built and created before your eyes,” he said.

The courts will be for student-use only, not for the public. Benishek said there was discussion about allowing public use, but the cost of having to carry additional insurance was prohibitive.

“It’s not that we’re opposed to it, but at the end of the day this is for the students,” he said.

He said he envisions the formation of sports clubs, possibly with on-campus tournaments, starting in the fall.

Approved clubs could be eligible for seed money for equipment and apparel from student government. After that, they could apply for a yearly stipend.

Likely, a ceremony to christen the courts will be held this summer.

“I’d like to see the first game be students versus faculty,” he said.