Intramural fields, McAlexander get ready for use

The fields west of Dixon Recreation Center have been improved in a major project that is nearing completion. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Students are already beginning to kick a soccer ball around the bright green new turf on the athletic fields just west of Dixon Recreation Center. They’re reaping the benefits of a year-long Outdoor Recreation Complex project funded by student fees, which has greatly improved the facilities for intramural teams on campus. Students voted to approve the project two years ago.

Freezing temperatures are slowing down the project, but most of the work should be complete by the naming ceremony taking place April 1. The space, which sits between Gill Coliseum and Dixon Recreation Center, is overlooked by several residence halls, and the views have been dramatically improved since the project began last spring. (See a live web cam view here:

“Part of the goal was not just to revamp the sports fields but to create a park-like setting,” said Bill Callender, associate director of facilities for Recreational Sports. The fields have winding pathways accessible by bike and pedestrians, lots of lighting, benches for resting and enjoying the view, and sidewalks to link the location to other parts of campus. New restrooms, drinking fountains and pavilions are also in place.

“We’re hoping everyone can find a place on the site,” Callender said.

New tennis courts, a track and a basketball court are almost complete, although their courts won’t be surfaced until drier weather (students will soon be able to use them with their current asphalt surface until the final surface is in place).

New fencing, landscaping and benches will enhance the intramural fields. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

A new sand volleyball court has also been created to the south of Dixon Recreation Center. It was included in the original Dixon expansion plan but had to be cut for cost reasons. Now it’s been added back, and is ready for use but will not be opened until landscaping around the court is completed.

A second project, also funded by student fees, is an overhaul of the inside of McAlexander Field House. With new indoor turf, a new court surface, climbing walls and brand new bathrooms, the space is much more usable for large groups and will provide opportunities for outside groups to rent the space as well. The climbing walls include a rope wall and a repelling wall that both reach 39 feet, as well as a bouldering wall that goes up 15 feet.

There is even a new 50-seat classroom space, made available by moving the batting cages up to a new mezzanine level. And there will be a desk at the door for students to check out equipment.

“The facility will be managed in a similar way to Dixon,” Callender said.

The field house turns 100 this year, and in its former life was used as a military barracks, a horseback riding arena, an indoor soccer field and military drilling grounds. The external structure has been restored to its former look, with formerly blocked out windows replaced with new ones, new doors and a skylight to help illuminate the building in an energy-efficient way. Officials are hoping to meet LEED gold certification standards when work is completed.

The sprinklers, alarms and other safety systems have been updated, and the building can now safely hold 1,500 people.

“A lot of people are very interested in renting the space,” Callender said. As is their policy, Rec Sports will make student usage a priority, but the ability to rent the facility will provide some cost benefit to the project.

“If we can generate income but not displace students it will help keep fees lower,” he said.

An opening celebration is planned at McAlexander in conjunction with the Feb. 18 After Dark event – music and activities will take place in the building throughout the evening.

~ Theresa Hogue

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