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USC Board of Trustees approves major athletic facility improvements

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(Source: Chris Matras) (Source: Chris Matras)

COLUMBIA, SC (TheBig Spur) - Two football seasons ago South Carolina debuted the Gamecock Park -- a transformative project that turned a visually unappealing area around Williams-Brice Stadium into one of the premier tailgating areas in the country.

With Phase II approval Friday from South Carolina's Board of Trustees for the new Spring-Brooks Plaza -- a project that will produce a similar theme in the area immediately surrounding the stadium -- the Gamecocks are one step away from completely re-tooling its football facilities.

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That's something that has athletics director Ray Tanner excited for the future.

"I love Williams-Brice. It's well-designed, it's great, but outside it sort of gives you the feel of an industrial area," Tanner said Friday afternoon. "And when we finish, you're going to feel like you're in a garden or a theme park. We're going to transform it. What we've done at Gamecock Park is phenomenal, we need that same effect across the street."

The $14.5 million project was one of three major facility improvement projects which received Phase II approval from the board Friday. Also approved are new indoor and outdoor track facilities, and a new standalone soccer complex right outside Stone Stadium.

As part of those projects, South Carolina's current multi-purpose indoor football practice facility will be transformed to accommodate track.

The three projects combined will total $32.5 million (More details on the projects here) with a target of completing the plaza prior to the 2015 football season, the track facilities around October 2015 and the soccer complex in January 2016.

The projects will go before the state budget and control board around the end of April, which could make for a tight timetable in completing the plaza before the Gamecocks' 2015 football season.

"We would start as soon as football season is over and we would be praying for great weather and great work and no unforeseen issues and get ready for the '15 kick," Tanner said.

University President Harris Pastides expressed to the board during the meeting, the importance of getting the projects approved and continuing to move forward with approving the athletics facilities and other projects on campus.

While the three projects may seem like a lot to take on at once, Pastides pointed out that South Carolina has a long-term facilities plan of action in place.

Tanner agreed that continuing to move forward with facility improvements is of the utmost importance.

"If you look at what we've done over the last four or five years," Tanner said, "the investment that's been made, and our resources athletically -- our athletics village, our facilities that are hopefully coming on line, and what has happened with baseball and softball, and Colonial Life Arena is very special -- it's very important as we move forward for success and sustaining it. This is what we deal with in the recruiting world and I think it's important for our fan base. I'm excited about our future."

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