MTSU is taking their athletic facilities to the next level with a $100 million, three-phase upgrade plan.
When it comes to sports in Rutherford County, Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is at the center of it all. The Blue Raiders athletic program gives area residents a home team to root for, and the university’s facilities provide venues for a variety of high school and youth tournaments and events.
Now, the connection between college and community is about to get even better, thanks to a more than $100 million, three-phase plan to upgrade MTSU’s athletic facilities. The project includes the creation of a student-athlete performance center and significant enhancements to the 10,000-seat Charles M. Murphy Athletic Center, home of the Blue Raiders basketball and indoor track teams.
“Everybody likes to be associated with winning sports programs. It gives identity and rallying cries to the community,” says Chris Massaro, MTSU’s director of athletics. “These improvements will enhance Rutherford County’s livability tremendously for the next 20 to 30 years.”
One, Two, Three
The facility upgrades are part of MTSU’s Build Blue fundraising campaign. The highlight of the first phase will be the performance center, which will include a new weight room, equipment room and training room for the school’s student athletes. The university is also building eight outdoor tennis courts that can be used by both the MTSU teams as well as the Rutherford County community.
“Along with being great competition sites for our men’s and women’s teams, this will enhance the city’s inventory of tennis courts and make it attractive to bring in other types of tournaments,” Massaro says. “When you combine it with the Adams Tennis Complex (24 outdoor courts and an eight-court indoor facility at Old Fort Park), our tennis infrastructure will be one of the best in the Southeast.”
The second phase will focus on the 50-year-old Murphy Center Complex. Plans call for the creation of a fan-friendly entranceway and large interior atrium, a training-and-skill center for student-athletes, premium seating for fans, and enhancements to the scoreboards, video board and PA system.
In addition to helping Rutherford County retain existing sports events, such as the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) basketball tournament (which has been held at the Murphy Center Complex since 1973), Massaro says the improvements will enable the arena to attract more concerts and other entertainment options.
“TSSAA is excited about having those improvements, both aesthetic and practical, for hosting the basketball tournaments every year,” Massaro says. “And we are hoping to make this utilitarian enough that it will also be attractive to nonathletic events and shows coming to our area. So we can start to dabble in the concert and entertainment business a little bit and make it more of a mix-use building.”
The long-term third phase will include the construction of a multipurpose indoor practice facility located near the new performance center, providing all 17 Blue Raiders athletic programs with a place to practice and train regardless of weather conditions.
“Higher levels of athletics bring more fans, more hotel rooms, more restaurant business, so there’s an economic impact that’s really significant …”
Chris Massaro, MTSU
Building It So They Will Come
While the initial goal of these improvements is to provide better facilities for MTSU’s student-athletes and fans, they will also benefit all of Rutherford County by bringing in even more out-of-county sports teams and visitors.
“We are thrilled about the upgrade of MTSU’s sports facilities,” says Barbara Wolke, senior vice president of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The (multisport) TSSAA Spring Fling and the basketball championships require the use of MTSU facilities. This renovation will help keep these events in Rutherford County and add many more, increasing the overall tourism economic impact.”
Massaro agrees. Between in-season tournaments and off-season camps and training, he expects these new facilities to be utilized year-round by MTSU students, the Rutherford County community and visiting sports teams.
“Higher levels of athletics bring more fans, more hotel rooms, more restaurant business, so there’s an economic impact that’s really significant for these buildings and what they produce,” Massaro says. “And the better the venue, the more likely it is that people are going to attend. Historically, our athletic facilities have been used by athletes of all ages and all levels, from camps to tournaments. That will continue, because we believe in it, and it’s great for the community.”