A project is under way that will give East Tennessee State’s basketball teams a little more privacy as they practice in the Dome.
The $200,000 project involves renovating and enclosing the auxiliary court on the West side of the building. The wood floor has already been stripped away, and preparations are being made for a new one to be installed and walls to be built.
“We’re trying to create a private practice facility for our basketball teams,” athletic director Dave Mullins said Wednesday. “A lot of people are building stand-alone facilities, but we’ve got the room to do this in our arena. We’ve got to have the design work approved, but the plan is to build a wall between the practice court and the track on that end of the building. There will be another wall along the top railing, similar to what we have above the weight room on the other end, so the whole thing will be enclosed.
“We’ve had issues with the old floor over the years, so we’re replacing that and going to put graphics on it so it looks like our game floor. We’re replacing all the goals, we’re going to paint, we’ll have new graphics and hang championship banners. It’s going to look nice when it’s finished.”
Mulllins said the project is part of an overall plan initiated by new president Brian Noland to “create a better environment” in the Dome for basketball. He’s hoping some improvements in the main arena will be in place by the time the basketball season rolls around in November, and more will be evident by next season.
“We’ve run into some delays because of the building process — approvals of designs, fire marshal approvals, actual construction time,” said Mullins. “We’re still hoping to get parts of it done by the end of October or first of November.
“We’re hoping the new lighting grid will be installed above the court so that we can cut the lights in the rest of the Dome and focus on the court itself. Bids are out for the new courtside video tables, LED tables for advertising. We’re going to have a new seating package that will expand seating on the East side, but that probably won’t take effect until next season.”
Prep work is also proceeding outside on the south end of campus, on the hill above Summers-Taylor Stadium.
Grading for a tennis facility that will feature a dozen new courts has been slowed recently by heavy rains, but an October completion date is still the target.
“All the rain has created some mud pits, and we’ve had to build a retention pond near the soccer practice fields for water runoff,” said Mullins. “But they’re making progress.”
The project includes construction of 12 courts — six varsity and six for recreation/intramural use — with terraced seating around them.
“The top level will be 12-15 feet higher than the actual court level,” said Mullins, “so we’re terracing the south and east side for seating. It’s going to be a much nicer place for tennis — away from traffic and a major parking lot and foot traffic.”
As for the completion of Thomas Stadium, the long-running first phase is reportedly drawing near.
“We have another construction meeting tomorrow, and they’ll give us an update on exactly when it will be completed,” said Mullins. “We’re close. They’re doing all the interior finishes, installing cabinets, hanging the gates and things like that. The parking lot will be the last thing we do.
“We’re already starting to plan for adding more seating.”
ETSU has a few coaching vacancies in the process of being filled.
A new director of track and field, to replace Dave Walker, is about to enter the interview phase, said Mullins. The coach would then put together his own staff, he said.
“We’ve already posted an assistant position so we can get a little ahead of the curve on having to post a position for 30 days,” said Mullins.
Former assistant Eli Sunquist, who had been handling many of the day-to-day affairs of the program, left earlier this month “to look for other opportunities,” said Mullins.
Women’s basketball coach Karen Kemp is also looking for an assistant after Kelvin Long left to take a job at Kennesaw State. The softball team has been without a pitching coach, but that job is expected to be filled soon. And volleyball will also need to make a hire after assistant Michelle Piantadosi was named the new head coach at Eckerd College in Florida on Monday.