Students and faculty are not the only ones at Sam Houston State University who are being affected by the heavy amount of construction this semester. The Bearkat volleyball program is majorly affected as well.
Johnson Coliseum, where Bearkat volleyball home games were previously played, is still undergoing renovations that started on March 25.
“I would say at this point the Johnson Coliseum renovation project is right on schedule,” Ed Chatal, associate director of facilities, said. “I do not think they are ahead of schedule, but they are not far behind. I think they are right on track. Hopefully we will have a date real soon where we can announce the first event.”
The SHSU volleyball team is the primary victim to the construction project. Although, the end result will benefit fans and the entire athletic department, the team still faces an oddly scheduled season, which has them starting on the road for the first 13 games.
“In years past we have always opened up with a tournament in Johnson Coliseum,” assistant coach Charlie Olson said. “It is not bad going on the road to play in an in-state tournament, but it would have been nice to open up at home. At the end of the day, this will only make us better and the renovations will be pretty sweet once it is all done.”
Due to the construction, the Bearkats have been practicing at the Rec Center.
Coach Olson and the team see this as a benefit because of the way the building is structured.
“Johnson Coliseum holds about 65 hundred people and it is very wide open,” Olson said. “The Rec Center is a lot more closed in, with a lot less room to maneuver. But it is a lot louder in there and I think that also mimics some of our Southland Conference opponents’ gyms. They are smaller, they are louder, so I think it actually puts us into a pretty good opportunity to get better.”
Johnson Coliseum is getting numerous upgrades that will affect both fans and athletes. According to Chatal, the majority of the renovation budget was devoted to installing new air handlers and other h-back components throughout the facility.
“The original 40-year-old air handlers were replaced and new ones are being installed,” Chatal said. “The reason for it was to not only get more energy efficient, but it was also a way to help keep people more comfortable because we can now isolate when we need cold. It is much more modern technology and it is going to save the university a lot of money in the long run.”
Other big renovations include new lockers in the locker rooms, a revamped training room, a control room for the video board, as well as a new media room for postgame interviews.
“The student athletes are going to get a big benefit out of the new training room,” Chatal said. “Athletes are going to be able to use both a thermal tub and a polar plunge and they are going to be adjacent from each other. The athletic programs will not have to use makeshift cold tubs in the locker room anymore. It will all be in the training room.”
Spectators will also have nicer seating options in the newly installed bleachers and a new concession area to choose from. A new maple hardwood court, with new court designs is also in the renovation plan.
“Overall, any spectator coming through the door is going to benefit,” Chatal said. “They are going to feel more comfortable with the temperature and they will have the nicer seating options with the new bleachers. We are not sure what kind of food we are putting in the new concession area yet, but hopefully this area will have new menu choices for the fans.”
The total cost of the Johnson Coliseum renovations is about 12.3 million dollars. At this time, there is no exact finish date.
“We had a meeting the other day to try and narrow down when exactly everything would be complete,” Chatal said. “However, we were not successful. There are still too many uncertainties, not about the overall components going into the renovations, but just some uncertainties about when we can get some technological stuff up and running again. Right now we are expecting things to be finished around mid-semester.”
The Sept. 20, Sept. 29 and Oct. 1 Bearkat volleyball home games have rescheduled the locations due to the construction. The team will play these three games in gym two at the Rec Center.
The Bearkats will play their first home game tomorrow against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to start Southland Conference play. The game is set to start at 6:30 p.m.