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Wednesday, Apr 24, 2024
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Athletics announces expanding facilities

And it’s more than just football

Five Star Stadium, among other sports facilities at Mercer, will undergo expansion in the coming year.
Five Star Stadium, among other sports facilities at Mercer, will undergo expansion in the coming year.

Mercer Athletics has announced that it will expand its sports facilities in the coming years, adding a baseball performance center, new tailgating areas within Five Star Stadium and a joint tennis and golf facility.

Five Star Stadium’s tailgating area will sit below the scoreboard, opposite the Homer and Ruth Drake Fieldhouse. The space will have two levels, the bottom tier being dedicated for tailgate tents. According to Brian Gerrity, the deputy athletic director and the executive director of the Mercer Athletic Foundation, there has already been interest in renting spaces on the tailgating level.

“I’m already getting calls about people wanting to rent tents and come back to campus. Everyone from alumni, to community, to local businesses,” Gerrity said.

On the second level, there will be a patio area where spectators can purchase concessions and watch the game from right behind the endzone.

The area will replace a berm that often gave young fans a space to play football and watch the game away from the stands. The grassy area was also an option for relatively cheap seating in the stadium. The construction will transform that area into a pay-to-rent space.

Gerrity is optimistic that the change won’t come at the expense of losing some fans to higher-priced seating because there are existing specials like “478 Day” that offer general admission tickets for $4.78 to anyone. He also pointed out that the berm seating was rarely taken advantage of by the general public, and that those who purchased the tickets often sat in general admission seating anyway.

The baseball program, which has claimed two Southern Conference titles in nine years, will soon have a new “performance center” next to Claude Smith Field. The facility, which will sit along the left field foul line, will have a patio overlooking the field, a meeting room for donors and recruits as well as offices for the team’s coaches. On the ground level of the facility, there will be batting cages and a pitching lab.

“This is all donor-funded and these projects all fall in line with the larger athletics facility plan. It’s not sort of ‘poof,’ out of nowhere, it’s these projects that are part of a larger plan to take the next step forward,” Gerrity said.

The athletics plan, which Gerrity said consists of about 20 different steps, has been in the works for years. Locker rooms around the campus have been renovated with donor money, from the school’s soccer programs to the basketball teams, among others. Additionally, work has been done to press boxes and seating areas around the athletic department, such as on Sikes Field and Betts Stadium. 

This next step is far more involved, and it will involve much more expensive construction. While Gerrity would not give an exact sum, he said that the cost of all three projects will be in the “multi-millions,” but not more than $10 million.

There is no definite timeline for the projects to be finished, but it is likely that there will be construction during the season for some of the programs, namely football. It will start, according to Gerrity, as soon as the necessary paperwork and permits are acquired by the school.

“We’re on all systems go right now,” Gerrity said. “I think all three [projects] will start in 2024.”

Gabriel Kopp

Gabriel Kopp '26 is majoring in Journalism and Law and Public Policy at Mercer University. He has written for The Cluster since he started at Mercer, and currently works as the Sports Editor. When he isn't studying, he enjoys going for runs and reading the New York Times.

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