Track and Soccer Stadium opens at MTSU

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For years Dean Hayes had a vision.

The MTSU track coach, who came to the area 41 years ago, wanted to see his program get a top-notch track facility. He got his wish May 1 when athletic director Chris Massaro was the master of ceremonies of the ribbon cutting of the Middle Tennessee Track and Soccer Complex.

"This is as nice as it gets," Hayes said. "We were at least 1,000 seats short last week (during Spring Fling). It's great for soccer, track meets. It's a very nice facility."

The city of Murfreesboro gave MTSU a $5.5 million gift more than a year ago. Track/soccer got $4 million, while baseball got $1.5 million. The baseball program will get a $5 million stadium in 2008.

MTSU has gotten $3.5 million in donations for the baseball stadium, while Enterprise Electric in Nashville donated lighting to the soccer/track and baseball stadiums.

"To me a big thing was this part of the parking lot needed aesthetic help," Massaro said. "We take pride in being a first-class university."

The Track and Soccer Complex took two phases to complete. Phase two projects included building a press box, concession stand, locker rooms and 22 public restrooms. Seating capacity for the grandstand is 1,500. The press box is heated and features wireless Internet and an elevator. The stadium also features an 845-square-foot camera deck.

The facility is complete in time for Spring Fling, which starts May 21. The track portion, which is held at MTSU, runs through May 25. MTSU will play host to the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Track Championships. MTSU has also submitted bids for the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Soccer Tournament and the 2009 NCAA Regional Track Championship.

"It gives us two things," Massaro said of the facility. "No. 1, it gives people a chance to see our student-athletes. No. 2, it gives our coaches a chance to really go out and recruit. It's one of the best soccer and track stadiums."

According to Ronnie Carter, TSSAA executive director, the track event could've been held elsewhere if not for the stadium.

"It was a real smart thing for Murfreesboro and MTSU because they had the vision about where this could go," Carter said. "They did a real smart thing because we first said that we couldn't hold our track meet here. We were going to hold Spring Fling in Murfreesboro, but the track meet was going to be held in Nashville."

That could've cost Murfreesboro money. Last year Spring Fling brought Rutherford County $2.6 million.

"If that would've happened, the people wouldn't have stayed in Murfreesboro at the hotels and restaurants and so on," Carter added. "But the city and MTSU did a smart thing, and they really seized the opportunity. And you know one of (TSSAA's) trademarks is that when people step up to the plate and do well like that we don't tend to leave them."
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