Basketballs bounce on the newly polished wooden floors.
Tennis shoes squeak as they pivot across the surface.
Machines beep as they roar to life.
And students hoot, holler, laugh and grunt during workouts.
To most, the sounds of the University of South Carolina Beaufort's new Sand Shark recreation center would be a cacophony. To athletics director Quin Monahan, it's music.
"We are on cloud nine hearing those sounds, because that's what it's all about," he said. "To just be able to have an indoor gym floor for our students is huge because they deserve to have indoor recreation, and it's all about providing complete experiences for our students."
The university opened its new 20,000-square-foot facility on the Hilton Head Gateway Campus to students Monday morning, with the smell of fresh paint and a new gym floor meeting visitors at the door. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center, which USC president Harris Pastides will attend, will be Feb. 5.
School officials broke ground in November, though the project has been in the works much longer. USCB began discussing a recreation center eight years ago, Monahan said, when it began its Sand Sharks athletics programs.
The center will now provide enhanced training facilities for its nine sports. The university previously had to lease athletic spaces around the county, director of student life Kate Vermilyea said.
The space has one large gym with two basketball courts and two volleyball courts, a fitness room with machines and weights, a room for various fitness classes, a training room for athletics and the athletics offices, which were previously housed in mobile units.
The center was completed within its $3.5 million budget and about six weeks behind schedule.
In addition to athletes, the center gives other students a place on campus to work out or play intramural sports, said Lindsey Logue, program coordinator for recreation and fitness.
Previously, fitness machines and classes were in the campus student center, Logue said. But the space was small, and they often had to share it with or forfeit it to other student groups.
"Now we get to expand to a whole new level of activities and intramurals for students that we never could before," she said. "The opportunities indoors are endless."
This includes having more regular classes, as well as adding more intramural sports such as basketball, volleyball and dodgeball.
Students pay a recreation fee as part of their tuition and don't have to pay extra to use the center, Vermilyea said. She said that fee could increase in the future, but there are no plans to raise it now.
The university also may consider allowing community members to use the center for a fee, but is monitoring its student and faculty use before making that decision.
Students said they're thrilled to have a stand-alone gym.
"It is so nice that it is its own building and now everything is under one roof, because before everything was crammed in the campus center," said junior Cassie Beato, who works at the new center and also runs cross country and track. "It really feels like a gym and just completes the campus."
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
- USCB to build new Sand Shark recreation center in Bluffton, November 7, 2013
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