A renowned sports program plans for growth while reinforcing their commitment to achievement
The University of Texas (UT) athletics master plan builds on the 2012 Sasaki university-wide framework plan for the Austin campus. By establishing goals based on the values and principles of the athletics department, the master plan reflects Texas Athletics’ high-achieving ethos and ensures that the athletics campus promotes the health, wellness, and drive of its student-athletes.
Before beginning, the team identified priorities to guide the master planning process:
- Create best-in-class athletics facilities that are flexible, functional, efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable
- Mitigate the challenges of student athletes’ schedules by locating athletics venues in close proximity to the North End Zone, other athletics facilities, and academic resources
- Improve the operational efficiency and convenience of athletics facilities for daily and event-day operations, including service functions, ingress and egress, safety, and security
- Consider cross- or multi-functional use of facilities for improved efficiency
- Create a brand experience for all Texas athletics stakeholders, including students, donors, faculty and staff, and visitors
- Emphasize quality standards: safety, Texas hospitality, teamwork, and efficiency
- Enhance the game-day experience
The planning process began with a period of study and analysis. Using an in-house data-gathering tool called CoMap, the Sasaki team was able to better understand student-athlete time constraints and travel patterns. The results helped to reinforce the need for efficiency and informed the discussion about centralized support for programs. The use of this tool brought a high level of rigor, communication, and customization to the planning process.
A central challenge in the plan was finding new sites for athletic facilities that will be displaced by the expansion of the university’s Dell Medical School. Immediately, this meant a new home for the tennis programs. The tennis relocation, which opened in 2018, solidified one of the key concepts of the plan: to expand and reinforce a unified athletics precinct adjacent to the baseball and softball stadiums.
The medical school’s relocation also necessitated the complex issue of finding a new home for all basketball operations, including a practice facility and a 10,000-15,000 seat multi-use event center for hosting games. Sasaki worked specifically on a study for replacing the Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Special Events Center and Denton A. Cooley Pavilion. The team tested the capacity of multiple potential sites to accommodate these facilities, taking into consideration preferred adjacencies, relationships with other athletics venues, impacts on Capitol View Corridors, as well as practical service details like public access, service needs, and parking, while integrating within the overall campus master plan framework. Sasaki then worked with DLR Group to develop a conceptual arena design for the special events center which embodied all of the goals and aspirations recognized throughout the entire process. The UT Board of Regents recently approved a public-private partnership to build a new $338 million basketball and multi-purpose center on the recommended site.
As the hub of Texas Athletics, the Red McCombs Red Zone (RMRZ) of the Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium was a key portion of the overall plan. The RMRZ contains the centralized administrative offices, coaches’ offices, and headquarters for all student-athlete support services, including academic, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and sports medicine services. It was also designed to accommodate future expansion of athletics programs, including the sports medicine and strength training facility, a volleyball player development center, and the Texas Athletics nutrition center. These improvements benefit all student-athletes by creating flexible and functional facilities that adapt to the challenges of the student-athlete schedule.
The final product documents the planning process and all of the issues identified through stakeholder engagement, including the facility needs for each team and strategies for flexibility, including potential phasing, depending on the availability of donor support and opportunity for implementation. Both the tennis and event center projects, along with a number of smaller but important initiatives for other programs, are being located and arranged exactly as presented in the Sasaki plan.
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