On a campus where construction sites are becoming as common as sociology lectures, the small area adjacent to the UCR track and the student recreation center may be easily overlooked.
After all, there is no great steel and concrete facility rising up from a hole in the ground. But to some sports-loving students and members of the UCR men’s and women’s tennis teams, this could be the most important new site on campus.
The sports and recreation complex houses 10 tennis courts, including a center court with seating for 500, two sand volleyball courts, and two basketball courts.
A full-sized roller hockey rink features basketball backboards that convert into two full-length basketball courts. Topping it off is an eight-foot wide jogging trail that surrounds the entire three-quarter of an acre complex. All the facilities are lighted for evening use.
The complex replaces a field area that had been the site of the UCR baseball field as well as a track and field throwing facility in recent years.
The new courts replace those that will be lost with the construction of the new alumni and visitor’s center, which will be built at the site of the current tennis courts between the physical education and new fine arts buildings.
According to Dan Johnson, director of Design and Construction, the project moved from conception to completion in less than a year, despite some grading problems and inconvenient winter weather. Ground was first broken in November.
The committee, which consisted of students, coaching staff and administrators, provided input on the project in the summer of 1999. They considered the ideas of many sources, including Chancellor Raymond L. Orbach, who came up with perhaps the most unique aspect of the complex, the “center court.”
“Chancellor Orbach really embraced the idea of having a center court, where marquee tennis matches could be played,” Johnson said. “We did some planning and arranging on how we could make this center court more visible, so we sunk it about two feet into the ground and put grandstands around it.”
The center court seats about 500, while two sets of bleachers located adjacent to the other courts each hold about 250 people. The third set of courts feature a berm with a greenbelt where fans can sit.
The facility will be the home of the UCR men’s and women’s tennis programs, and according to Head Coach Mark Henry, has been designed to give the Highlanders a home court advantage while also providing an exceptional viewing environment.
“The courts will be blue, with blue windscreens, and hopefully our logo between the court and the viewing area. It will make it really seem like our home court, rather than just any other tennis court,” he said “The design has three courts side-by-side, so fans can watch three matches at once.
Perhaps the facility’s most unusual feature is the full-sized roller hockey rink. According to Lindy Fenex, director of the Student Recreation Center, the rink came about as a result of student requests.
Johnson believes the center will become a place where people want to come and visit, even if they aren’t there to play sports.
“There are nice elevation changes, so people can come out and picnic out here and watch the events,” Johnson said. “We are going to put in benches, seating areas, canopies, and it will be lush with landscaping and greenbelts throughout the entire site. It’s gorgeous. People will want to be over here all the time.”