By Emma Hamrick
Amidst the sea suit coats, scarlet red and Mocs fans, 13 shovels adored with bows demanded the attention of event attendees as ground broke on the new Barnett Athletic Complex. The ceremony, which took place Nov. 4, marks the first new construction effort for Florida Southern College’s Athletic Department at Barnett Field since the 1980s.
The new development will feature a redesigned softball field, revamped multipurpose lacrosse and soccer facility, rearranged parking spaces and additional facilities for fan engagement.
“The most important and most exciting parts are that there are two separate fields that can be used simultaneously and it will be modern,” Pete Meyer, FSC Athletic Director, said. “It will have permeant seating in both venues and I think that’s a significant impact for the fans and the students. At the same time, it will have press boxes and score boards and bench areas that are first class, top of the line.”
While this development may be the first athletic construction on campus since the 80s, it has been in the works for some time.
As a major part of the strategic plan for the college.
“Dr. Kerr and the board of trustees plan long term. They’ve looked at all of the different areas. At this point in time, it is important to continue development of the campus and the athletic program is an important part of our campus. Obviously, it’s a very visual part on a national level, so this gives credence to construction at this time,” Meyer said.
According to Meyer, the funding for the project was a result of generous donors who he considers to be “a game changer for our athletic program moving forward.” Meyer noted that the financial contributions from donors come exclusively from their own funds and their passions for Florida Southern College.
In turn, the future complex will vastly influence the way in which FSC athletics recruits for softball, lacrosse and soccer for the future.
“In this day and age, student athletes like to see top of the line facilities and this will be a recruiting tool. [FSC will] have a stand alone field on campus,” Pete said.
Meyer noted that the complex will move the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams from Bryant Stadium downtown to campus. In terms of recruiting, on campus facilities tend to be more marketable to prospective student athletes.
While the new complex will impact FSC’s recruiting process for athletes in the future, Meyer hopes it will influence the current students as well.
“Hopefully we can get students to pour out of the dorms and come over from the apartments to pile into the Barnett Complex. We’re excited about that,” Meyer said.
The construction of the new complex will displace the softball and soccer teams for their spring games and practices. Men’s and women’s soccer will head off campus for their spring practices in 2017. The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, on the other hand, are already practicing at the Lakeside Baptist Church property or Bryant Stadium. The softball team will play their home games at the Auburndale Softball Complex for their spring 2017 season.
The temporary relocation of the athletes was one of the most difficult attributes of the construction project.
“Obviously, you have a lot of reservations about relocating teams. All of that is a headache in the short term. When you look at what they’re going to receive in the long term, we’ll get through that with no problem,” Myer said.
Looking for facilities with open availability and adequate field size for collegiate competition was critical to relocating the teams.
In addition to uprooting the athletes, the construction will also uproot land surrounding the complex, including several parking spaces. Parking has consistently posed a problem for FSC visitors for athletic events, but Meyer assures that the redevelopment will not result in a loss of spaces on campus.
“Ultimately, our parking is determined by the student body. When we can fit it in, we build it in. Our administration under the direction of Terry Dennis is very concerned with those issues on campus and he does a tremendous job utilizing every inch of space we can utilize. That was part of the plan moving forward to make sure we did not lose any parking and we might gain a couple spots with the construction and reorganization of the Barnett Complex,” Meyer said.
Although the main purpose of the new facility will be to offer a premier collegiate sports experience, the complex will serve a dual purpose as a memorial for FSC veterans in the new Patriot’s Plaza slated to open alongside the reimagined fields.
“Patriot’s Plaza is a reflection area, a memorial for all of those veterans who are graduates of Florida Southern. I think we have in history 10 or 11 generals that have graduated from Florida Southern College. It will be a part of the Barnett Complex right at the entry of the complex from the Mocs’ Championship Way to the entrance of both of the fields,” Meyer said.
While the changes to the Barnett Complex will revitalize the field, Meyer stressed the importance of the donors in completing the project.
“I just want the students to understand that we are very grateful to our donors, not only for athletics, but for what we’ve been able to receive across the board. Whether it’s the business building, the humanities building, the apartment complexes, Barnett residential facilities, or the new labs, this all comes from private money,” Meyer said. “These people believe in Florida Southern College and want to make Florida Southern College better and we are fortunate to have a bunch of people who just really love Florida Southern College.”
The new complex is scheduled to open for the start of the 2017 men’s and women’s soccer seasons.