EDINBURG — The 41-year-old UTPA Field House is undergoing a much-needed facelift.
Earlier this week, work to replace aging bleachers and have-seen-better-days hardwood court floor began what Broncs Athletic Director Chris King hopes is the first steps in much larger renovations to the building.
The total cost to replace the bleachers and court is $658,784, all funded by the university. King saysit is money well spent.
“The main reason that it’s getting done is because of safety concerns,” King said. “Those bleachers are very outdated and very, very dangerous.
“There are code violations and ADA (American Disabilities Act) violations. We are in a place now where we are in a litigious society. You can’t afford that, especially when we are trying to change our perception.”
It is the first time the bleachers and court, which has been resurfaced numerous times, will be replaced. The renovation is expected to be completed by the time volleyball hosts its first match Aug. 28.
The field house, which also serves as a multi-purpose venue for the university, was built in 1969 and, according to the athletic department’s website, is one of the oldest Division I arenas in Texas. Its official capacity will drop to about 3,000 from 4,000 after the project is complete. Despite the change in capacity, longtime Associate Athletic Director of Sports Medicine Jim Lancaster said something had to be done.
“We have recruits that come in say they have seen high school gyms that look better than this, and they are probably right,” Lancaster said. “It is an old place. All it really needs is a facelift. I think it will help our (recruits) that will want to come see what it looks like. It is going to make it a more exciting place to play.”
Men’s basketball coach Ryan Marks agreed that the changes will help recruiting but said, more than anything, the field house will become inviting to fans.
“We have pro sports teams playing in modern venues in the area,” Marks said. “It’s at a point now where I can see that it is a deterrent or not as appealing to come to one of our events because of the venue as opposed to one of the other events.”
King has bigger plans to add new locker rooms, administrative offices and other features to the field house. That is expected to come with a $3 million price tag, which the AD will have to raise through private funding.
“In 30 days we might have the private funds. A year from now we might. It may take three years,” King said. “I can’t tell you when it is going to happen but it is something that is on my immediate agenda.”
Peter Rasmussen covers UTPA athletics for Valley Freedom Newspapers. You can reach him at (956) 683-4448.