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An eventful September for men’s and women’s soccer at UK has seen not only strong wins for both teams, but the drafting and passing of plans to renovate and add to the UK Soccer Complex.
The month had both squads capture wins at Louisville (ranked No. 12 women, No. 18 men). The men then continued to five games without a loss, as the women went on to beat No. 13 Florida and previously-undefeated Mississippi State. The icing on the cake for the two programs was the announcement of the new facilities.
Betterment of the UK Soccer Complex has been a multi-step process, marked by the installation of a new state-of-the-art field by UK Sports Turf in 2010, the construction of a high-definition video scoreboard in 2011, and finally the addition of bleachers which were moved from the softball field to the soccer field.
Finalized on Sept. 11, 2012, plans for the renovations/additions were ratified a week later by the Capital Projects and Bond
Oversight Committee. The new proposal offers a more comprehensive plan to give the players and coaches what UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart thinks they deserve.
“The soccer and softball complex is something that we have put a lot of time and effort into. (Jon Lipsitz), (Rachel Lawson), and (Johan Cedergren) have worked extremely hard to get their programs to the level that they are at now, and now it’s our turn from an administration standpoint to give them the facilities they need to take that next step,” Barnhart said.
“Not only does it mean a lot to me to be able to support our programs, but also I know it means a lot to the student-athletes to have SEC-quality facilities at their exposure. They work extremely hard every day to become the best they can be and represent UK the right way, so it is rewarding to be able to give them the facilities they deserve.”
Barnhart mentioned UK softball head coach Rachel Lawson, as the soccer facilities renovations will coincide with renovations and additions to the UK softball facilities that started this past summer. In fact, the proposal for the soccer plans, which outlines $7 million worth of construction, also included the addition of about $2 million to the initial scope of the softball construction.
The new plans for the soccer complex have players and coaches alike excited for the future of their programs.
Sophomore defender for Jon Lipsitz’s women’s team, Arin Gilliland, believes the additions can do nothing but good for current players, as well as future players.
“I know we have one of the best fields I’ve ever played on, so surrounding it with locker rooms and stands that we can show off will definitely be good for recruiting,” she said. “It just means a lot that the athletics department believes in our program so much. I’m really excited. It’s going to be awesome.”
The construction plans also have fans excited.
“It’s about time we got new facilities for soccer. They’ve been getting better for a while now, and they need a stadium to compete with the best,” said UK marketing sophomore Kyle Collins.
Sophomore mechanical engineering student Aaron Shearer was quick to add, “If they get these new facilities in and show them off, I bet way more fans will show (for games). I know I will.”
The ultimate plan is broad and encompasses the following: the addition of locker, shower, and lounge space for both men’s and women’s teams and also for training and referee rooms; new seating around the field; new benches and team support areas on the sidelines; a new press box; and a bridge connecting the soccer and softball facilities.
Construction will begin at the conclusion of the soccer season in November. Softball construction is set to be completed by May 2013, but the timetable for construction on the soccer facilities has not been publically announced.
The soccer and softball renovations and additions come at a time of great physical growth for UK, as the school introduces its largest freshman class and plans commence to add new undergraduate housing.
The soccer construction is one step in the right direction for the growth of UK as a school and as an athletics powerhouse, Barnhart said.
“We are extremely excited to put the final pieces of the puzzle together and create one of the best facilities in the country. It is going to be utilized in many different ways, and will give our fans something to be excited about.”