Winthrop University will add women's lacrosse to its list of intercollegiate sports next year, creating more opportunity for female athletes, generating revenue for the university, and providing a new way to recruit students, university leaders say.
"Lacrosse is the fastest-growing participant sport in the country right now," said athletics director Tom Hickman. "We need to tap into that market."
The athletic department hopes to have the program online for the 2011-2012 school year, Hickman said. Players will practice in the fall and compete in the spring.
The new lacrosse program is expected to bring in $400,000 in revenue for the university in its first year, increasing to as much as $600,000 the second year, Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio told trustees Friday.
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Lacrosse's popularity in the northeast means there's potential to recruit more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition than in-state students, Hickman said.
Adding the sport also will help Winthrop meet the requirements of federal Title IX laws, which require that a portion of athletic expenditures match a school's gender diversity, DiGiorgio said.
There's an academic benefit too, he said.
"Women's lacrosse players have among the highest academic standards," DiGiorgio said. "They're among the best in the NCAA in terms of grade point average."
Even closer to home there's a growing interest in the sport in which players use a long-handled racket with a net on the end to fling the ball into the opponent's goal.
There's already a women's lacrosse club on campus, a lacrosse club in Fort Mill and a high school team at Fort Mill High School. Several universities that Winthrop regularly competes against also have teams or are planning for them.
Winthrop trustees on Friday also approved:
Selling $6 million in bonds to pay for the renovation of Phelps Hall, a four-story residence hall, and provide maintenance to other on-campus dorms.
This will be the first major renovation of the 67-year-old Phelps, which is expected to re-open in fall 2012.
Students will see no rise in fees related to the renovations as the cost is built into the university's maintenance budget, university leaders said.
A deal in which the university will buy the city of Rock Hill's old Operations Center on Columbia Avenue for $2.67 million and sell to the city eight acres the university owns on Cherry Road for $500,000.
The deal must be approved by the State Budget and Control Board next month before taking effect.