By Dan Hayes, News Editor
The assessment of Armstrong’s remaining athletic facilities has been published and the report contains a mix of good and bad news for students.
I’ll begin with the bads news.
Sanctioned NCAA competition has left this campus and it is unlikely that it will ever return. As the report states “it is not feasible to expect regular, shared use of athletic facilities between the Savannah and Statesboro campuses due to distance and travel time.”
The report seemed to never entertain the idea of housing a particular sport on this campus, instead it focused on the feasibility of sharing facilities on both campuses.
“The primary goal of the project with regard to athletics was to pragmatically identify the highest and best use of the athletic facilities on the Savannah campus while considering the established facilities and programs on the Statesboro campus.”
Armstrong’s campus did house a fully functioning NCAA Division II Athletic Program as early as last year. As the report states, “the 2016-17 athletics season marked the conclusion of fifty (50) years of athletics at Armstrong State University.” The athletic programs offered included soccer, baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball and basketball.
Over that period, the ASU Pirates earned thirteen National Championships and ninety-six Peach Belt Conference Championships. Teams appeared in one hundred thirty-nine NCAA D2 Championships and produced two hundred ninety-six All-Americans.
Most notably, the tennis team amassed thirteen national championships in the last twenty years and had established itself as the gold standard of DIV II tennis. The tennis team played their last season in a brand new facility. The new tennis facility, which cost $1.5 million, was only completed in August 2016.
The report found that “in general, full compliance (to NCAA Division I level) can be achieved for modest costs.” However, “major shortcomings within the athletics facilities fall squarely in the categories of team support areas and user experience.”
Basically, the report finds that most athletic facilities can quickly be retrofitted to meet Division I standards but the experience for athletes and fans will be lacking.
Now the good news, “decreased use of the facilities on the Savannah campus for competitive athletics will create a new opportunity for recreational use that is highly desirable by the student body.”
The report details two separate concepts to renovate and repurpose the existing athletic facilities. Concept one involves full renovation of the Armstrong Sports Center, the previous basketball and volleyball courts, for recreational use. Concept two connects the Student Recreation Center with an addition to Pirate Athletic Center, which would result in a 78,000 sq ft. facility.
Both concepts include the addition of outdoor recreation facilities that include sand volleyball courts, basketball courts, picnic areas and a fire pit.
The authors of the report recommend concept one because it is cheaper than concept two, recreation space needs are addressed, multiple options are available for future expansion, and existing recreation facilities can remain in the Student Recreation Center during construction, eliminating the need for interim facilities.
One idea that was glaringly lacking from either concept was an indoor pool. The desire to bring the pool back was obvious from the results of a student survey cited in the report. Comment after comment enthusiastically called for bringing the pool back.
A desire for the pool ranked third in all remarks given in the survey, yet the idea was never addressed in the report. It is clear that students want the pool back. Why can’t they have it?
As soon as the consolidation was announced it was obvious there would be no need for two sports programs. Armstrong’s athletic program is gone and there is little to no chance it will return. But there is an opportunity to comprehensively enhance Student Recreation facilities on this campus.
While we are renovating things, why not bring back the pool?