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Martinez Athletics Center opens at University of Tampa

TAMPA — "Give us a place to stand, we'll move the Earth."

The message is elegantly painted on a wall inside the newly renovated Martinez Athletics Center at the University of Tampa, one of many prominent reminders that you're in Spartans territory.

As you walk in the main entrance of the 3,432-seat center, your eyes lock on to the giant Spartan sculpture in front of the trophy case, complete with all of the school's 12 national titles. The Spartan previously stood guard outside.

The private university dedicated the renovated Martinez Center and a new Health Sciences and Human Performance building Thursday. Athletics director Larry Marfise called the makeover a "significant gain."

"Prior to the renovations, we didn't have an equipment room. Coaches would store a lot of the stuff at home," Marfise said. "We've doubled the size of the locker rooms. We have a new weight room, aerobics room, concession area, media center and study lounge."

The health sciences building, meanwhile, is a two-story structure that includes eight classrooms and labs for athletic training, human anatomy, physiology, human performance and marine science.

A custom-made Spartan helmet greets you as you enter a waiting area. Each black leather chair in the building sports the red UT logo sewn on the back. Walls are decorated with an inspirational quote, battle cry or mural.

"It's my belief that both building projects will enhance Spartan spirit and academic experiences for current and future generations of UT students," said university president Ronald Vaughn.

Among other features are 425 lockers — 213 for women, 212 for men — and additional locker room facilities for UT faculty and staff, game officials and visiting teams. There's also a Sword & Shield Room that includes a 45-foot-tall sword made of stainless steel, with a concealed LED lighting scheme that can be controlled to shine red or white. The shield is made of fiberglass and steel and weighs 2,000 pounds.

"Our student athletes are going to enjoy the perks of this state-of-the-art venue, but so will our entire student body," Marfise said.

"We have a very popular intramural program, as well as a ton of students involved in club sports. Our faculty and staff even have their own locker rooms. We made sure that this was a project that would be used by all. It's a true multipurpose center."

The Martinez Center opened in 1984. Parts of it and the health sciences building were originally constructed as exhibit halls for the Florida State Fair.

The first event at the renovated center will be a women's basketball game Friday, as the Spartans take on Florida Southern.

The Martinez Athletics Center joins the Tampa Bay Times Forum and University of South Florida Sun Dome as other venues with recent, significant face lifts.

Marfise grinned and said, "Not only is the center aesthetically pleasing, but it was done with keeping everyone in mind. I'm so excited to be a part of this."

Paul Driscoll can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

Martinez Athletics Center opens at University of Tampa 09/29/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 29, 2012 4:31am]
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