TAMPA — A seven-figure gift from Tampa Bay Rays founding partner Vince Naimoli is paying for a new athletic field at the University of Tampa, the school announced Monday.
The turf field, facing Kennedy Boulevard on the west side of campus, will be used primarily by UT's lacrosse and intramural sports teams. It's expected to open by December.
"It'll be a very nice, visible venue for UT's athletics," said university spokesman Eric Cardenas, "and kind of extend the gateway into downtown."
While design details are still being worked out, plans for the Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex include a 1,450-seat stadium, a concession area, restrooms and team meeting rooms. The school will erect a fence similar to the one bordering the rest of the campus along Kennedy, as well as a high net to keep balls from soaring into traffic.
The new women's lacrosse team will play its first games there during the 2013-2014 academic year — joining the men's program that started this spring.
The complex has been planned for several years, but it was Naimoli's recent $1 million-plus donation that helped make the vision a reality.
Naimoli, former president and CEO of Anchor Industries International, is a chairman emeritus of UT's board of trustees. He's been a longtime benefactor to the university, Cardenas said, supporting improvements to UT facilities and scholarships since the 1980s.
The school is also home to the Naimoli and Young Family Tennis Complex, the Naimoli Family Softball Stadium and Naimoli Institute for Business Strategy
"The progress the University of Tampa has made in the past 25 years, in academics, athletics and the entire college experience, has been impressive," Naimoli said in a news release. "I'm pleased to support such a fine institution and future generations of its students."
The university plans to eventually build academic buildings on the area currently used for intramurals, adjacent to Pepin Stadium at Cass Street and N Boulevard.
The project comes at a time of busy construction across UT. The Bob Martinez Sports Center on N Boulevard is in the midst of a facelift, and the university just broke ground on an 11-story residence hall at the old Valencia Garden property on Kennedy — the 25th new or substantially redesigned building on campus over the past 15 years.
"Certainly an increase in enrollment is fueling our need for new facilities and updated facilities," Cardenas said. "We're eager to get it going."
To prepare for this new project, UT will clear away several of the properties it owns facing Kennedy, just west of Delaware Avenue. Tampa-based R.R. Simmons construction company was named as the builder.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at email@example.com or 813-226-3337.