“We’re on track to open up in April. It’s just a matter of letting the grass grow, at that point,” noted Ruben Cantu, senior associate athletic director, while surveying a field newly shaped by development. It is not an agrarian setting; yet, against a midday glare, the sections of sand and seeded ground stand for growth at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
Planted on the northwest side of campus on Corral Avenue and Seale Street, the newly-constructed intramural athletic complex is set to open in early April. The nearly 18-acre complex was funded by $7 million from student fees, on the basis of two student referendums in 2014 and 2016. The facilities act as a trellis to train the university’s diverse athletic interests; tennis, soccer, softball, beach volleyball, and cricket are all represented by space in the complex.
Construction for the intramural athletic complex began in August 2016, after being approved by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents on April 27. The process was not without its quirks; as Cantu conceded, setbacks of some kind are to be expected in any project. Summer rains led to delays in construction, extending development by a month. Nevertheless, at this point, Cantu noted the university is on schedule to receive complete ownership of the complex April 1.
Prior to April 1, certain parts of the facility are already in use; the 8 National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) tennis courts have received wear, with TAMUK’s first home match against Dallas Baptist University taking place on new courts Feb. 10. Likewise, the university’s beach volleyball team has practiced on the grounds since the beginning of the semester, and will begin its season on the new fields March 3.
Tanya Allen, head volleyball coach, views the complex as a catalyst for continued excellence in athletics at TAMUK. “Beach volleyball is the only team on campus that competes at the D1 level, and the new facility will make it much easier to recruit future talent to join our team,” she explained.
According to Anthony Kreitzer, intramural director, the project is indicative of increased interest in recreational sports at TAMUK. “The complex will benefit the student body by offering more open recreation, opportunities for more sports,” Kreitzer explained. “These fields are from a direct correlation of growing recreational sports at 30 percent for three consecutive semesters.”
Student engagement has also added to the uniqueness of the complex through the inclusion of a cricket pitch. “From my knowledge, we will have the only facility that features a cricket field. There are schools that have cricket as an intramural sport or club sport, but none set up like we are. This comes from having a strong and active international student body who have a passion for cricket,” Kreitzer said.
Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics & Campus Recreation, Scott Gines, is not removed from the idea of student participation in sports tilling deepened cultural richness at TAMUK. In recounting the university’s 12-team league, Gines noted: “Most of America’s sporting history reflects social and economic change, and cricket is certainly an example of that on our campus.”
The complex leaves room for further development; according to Cantu, Phase 2 of construction will develop locker rooms and storage facilities. Until then, temporary storage facilities will be used for equipment.
Apart from acreage, the complex is a sign of encouraging growth at TAMUK—not merely in enrollment numbers, but in strengthening individual students. According to Gines, “growth in campus recreation and fitness also mirrors our elevating academic profile, increased retention and graduation. Campus recreation and fitness is just that – engagement, lifetime sport, good health. Over the past four years, our intramural participation nearly doubled to 3,300 participants, and expanding our outdoor recreation opportunities reflects both the growth in size of our enrollment and the increasing engagement desires and recreational habits of our students.”