Charleston Southern, home of the smallest Division I college basketball facility in the country, is on its way to losing that distinction.
The school's board of trustees approved a 10-year development project that includes a 3,500-seat multi-purpose basketball arena to replace the current field house, which has a seating capacity of less than 800.
The new convocation center would include wellness facilities and would be a site for concerts, graduations and other campus-sponsored events. Construction is projected to begin in 2016 and would take about two years to complete, Charleston Southern president Dr. Jairy C. Hunter said.
Tentative plans are to build a facility similar to the arena that fellow Big South Conference member Campbell opened in 2008. That arena has a capacity of 3,095 and cost $31 million. It also houses meeting space, locker rooms and a fitness center.
CSU athletic director Hank Small said the budget has not been finalized, nor has all the funding.
Men's basketball coach Barclay Radebaugh said one of the benefits of a new arena will be recruiting.
"I'm excited about this important step the university is making," said Radebaugh. "It speaks to the university's commitment for continued growth in our basketball programs. We are proud of our home atmosphere, and this will enhance our ability to continue recruiting top quality student-athletes."
Said women's basketball coach Julie Goodenough: "A new arena will obviously aid our recruiting efforts and will also give our players, as well as our fans, a home court to be proud of. I am ecstatic, humbled and thankful for this excited blessing."
The school recently began construction of a new athletic facilty at the football stadium. That new structure will house football and track locker rooms, a new weight room, coaches' offices and meeting rooms. Phase one of the project is scheduled for completion in August.
Last week, CSU approved additional funding for renovations to current locker rooms in Buccaneer Field House as well as a press box facility and coaches offices for the softball program. The plan includes the installation of lights for the baseball, softball and football stadiums. The baseball program is currently involved in a major fundraising campaign for lights, and coach Stuart Lake says the school should be able to play its first night game in 2013.
"The enhancements to CSU's athletic facilities underscore the university's commitment to providing a competitive NCAA Division I athletic environment for our student-athletes," said Dr. Rick Brewer, vice president of student affairs and athletics. "CSU's athletic administration, coaches and student-athletes are committed to advancing the university's mission and vision."
Small echoed those sentiments, noting that the improvements will help the Buccaneers in recruiting future student-athletes.
"The immediate additions of the softball building and the athletic center will benefit all of our athletes, and the future convocation center will show recruits that the university strongly supports our efforts in the Big South Conference and in Division I," Small said.
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