Anyone passing by the University of Memphis along Southern Avenue in the past couple of months has noticed wide-scale construction and the removal of the long-standing tennis and volleyball courts. The work is actually part of five separate capital projects happening now or scheduled to take place as part of the university’s overall master plan.
Safety improvements are going in along Southern leading up the railroad tracks, including three at-grade crossings, pedestrian warnings for oncoming trains, new pedestrian striping on Southern, new solar lighting, fencing and landscaping, and a new sidewalk on the north side of the street.
“We’re also working towards getting a pedestrian signalized crossing just like we have on Central Avenue [on the north end of the campus],” said Tony Poteet, U. of M. assistant VP of campus planning and design.
More than $1.4 million of the money needed for the project came from a Tennessee Department of Transportation grant, and the university kicked in an additional $360,000. The contractor is Zellner Construction Services, with engineering by Allen & Hoshall.
Construction will get underway next year on the highly anticipated $36.6 million land bridge and parking garage, which will extend over the tracks at Southern. The project has been approved by the State Building Commission, and The Haizlip Firm has been selected as the designer.
New surface parking expansions are going in at three areas: near the Alumni Center, a resident lot Paul, and the conversion of the former tennis courts and outdoor volleyball/basketball area.
“That is basically part of phasing of the master plan in anticipation of the next project, which will be the recreation center,” said Poteet. “It’s going to be a real gem; it’s nothing like we have today.”
A new $62 million recreation center will include five basketball courts, racquetball courts, multi-level fitness areas, climbing walls, spa, classroom, training studios and a one-third mile indoor track. Aquatic accommodations include an interior lap pool, whirlpool and outdoor recreation pool.
“It’s nearing completion of the design process to go out for bid,” said Poteet. “Our plan is to get that building started this year, open it up by fall of 2018, and then tear down the existing recreation center and expand the recreation fields.”
The project will double the amount of available field space with multipurpose fields, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts and will also use the Finch Center for recreation needs.
An electrical infrastructure project will also put all of the new buildings and the existing buildings south of the railroad tracks onto a single electrical loop rather than individual feeds.
“It will give us much better reliability and helps with our utility expenses,” said Poteet.
Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News
, Memphis Bioworks Magazine
, Memphis Crossroads
, the New York Daily News
and the New York Post
. Contact Michael