By Jennifer Rodino
Back in 2005, Palm Beach Atlantic University signed a contract to purchase land for an outdoor athletic complex. This complex, known as the Hillcrest property, is located about two miles from campus, between Belvedere Road and Southern Boulevard.
After the land has sat undeveloped for several years, PBA now plans to resume work on the site within the next year so the complex can be open for use in about two years.
Many students are wondering why the development of Hillcrest been slowed down and delayed.
“The reason that Hillcrest has not been developed over the last 18 months is simply a lack of revenue,” said PBA President Lu Hardin. “The cost of completing this facility, according to the master plan, would be between $12 and $16 million dollars.”
Hardin said the inspiration for having the complex completed as soon as possible is the desire to have PBA enter the Sunshine State Conference, or another comparable conference upon its completion.
“It is very difficult to survive as an independent,” Hardin said. “The conference provides support and helps in recruiting athletes from all over the nation.”
In August of 2002, PBA purchased a piece of land along Southern Boulevard with the intention of using it for the athletic facility. Now, Hardin said, that property will be sold and the proceeds will be used to fund the Hillcrest build.
“It was purchased with plans to put the athletic campus there, but the Hillcrest tract came along, which has obvious advantages,” said Becky Peeling, assistant vice president for University Relations and Marketing at PBA.
The complex will include an 11-acre perimeter public park that will provide green space and walking paths for neighborhood residents.
Hillcrest will have, among other additions, fields for softball, baseball, soccer and tennis, plus running trails.
PBA plans to share Hillcrest with the West Palm Beach community. In the past, the administration has said this will give the school a great deal of publicity, and help us reach out to those around us to help make our university well known and good neighbors.
“All outdoor sports will be using the facilities, but the most use would probably be for baseball,” said Bob White, PBA athletic director. “This is because baseball is the sport that suffers most from lack of practice due to inadequate home practice facilities. So having a steady home practice baseball field will be a plus to the program.”
Once the Hillcrest complex is completed, this will make a huge impact on PBA as a whole.
The complex will allow the university to branch out and be able to go and support student athletes.
“It will help tremendously,” White said. “We already have great athletes that usually come from high schools with nice sports facilities. This complex will put us at a big competitive advantage.”
The complex will also finally give PBA a field to call “home.” In addition to focusing more attention on outdoor sports, the complex will give PBA more stability.
“God wouldn’t give us 98 acres of great land to just sit there and do nothing with, so of course, we’re going to get this project done but we should be patient,” said White.
Not only will the Hillcrest complex benefit athletes by giving them a premiere home field facility, but it will also help attract more fan support.
The Athletic Department hopes that the number of people attending PBA sporting events will see a significant increase.
“The new complex will be a great addition to our team,” said softball player Dani Perrotti. “Having a home field will greatly improve our ability to recruit and give our school a greater opportunity to get into a conference.”
Right now, PBA is determining what would be the best way of transporting students who are unable to drive to the complex. Providing shuttles is an option that is being strongly considered.