The University of Tennessee has no plans of sharing the new student recreation fields under construction on Sutherland Avenue with West High School or any other school — at least not for now.
UT, however, is working on a plan to give West additional parking for special occasions, such as home football games.
"We're not going to commit to anything other than to try to make some parking available," said Tim Rogers, UT vice chancellor for student affairs. "We're actually trying to design it such that we may be able to have access and secure our playing fields from the parking so that we could allow West to use the parking."
The $14 million project included the demolition of more than 60 apartment buildings that were built in the 1960s and '70s as married-student housing complexes and replacing them with eight multipurpose fields and two softball fields for use by UT students.
UT owns the property, which is adjacent to West High School.
One crucial issue with West's football team is access to its field house once UT's new fields are in place.
When the apartments were still there, West's football coaches, players, and anyone making deliveries to the field house were able to use a road that belonged to UT as access.
That road will be replaced by greenways or fields, but Rogers said another alternative for access to the field house was discussed during an April meeting with West athletic director Steve Killian, West principal Katherine Banner, architects, and other UT officials.
"It was university property that they were using as an access road," Rogers said, "and it was discussed that, that would go away, but an alternate arrangement to allow access by way of the Armory was put in place."
Rogers didn't rule out the possibility that West or other schools could use the fields in the future.
"First and foremost, we're good stewards for our student body, who have paid for this, and if on a limited basis, open some of the facilities, and it would be very much limited, we'd do that," Rogers said. "It wouldn't specifically be for West. We would have to consider any requests that came in, but because West is truly a neighbor approximately located next to the fields, we'd try to work with them, but that is to be determined at some point in the future when we know what our needs and demands and cost would be."
Rogers and other UT officials have met with local businesses, neighborhood groups, and West High officials often about the project.
Killian expects the dialogue to continue.
"I do think we'll have conversations about the possible availability of the fields," Killian said. "We don't anticipate to have it available on a consistent basis. It will just be available as UT's schedule is developed, and the availability may become a little clearer. We may have that potential to use the field on occasion."
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.