sports franchise in the United States: the Miami Toros soccer team.
The new joint facility for women’s hockey and men’s and women’s tennis has received $10 million from the Legislature and $3.2 million in internal loans and gifts through the past three years.
For the past several years, new sports facilities have been works-in-progress. Plans for the soccer stadium, for example, began with the formation of the team itself, well before women’s athletics received any state funding.
Adequate funding alone does not a stadium make; often, location presents the biggest obstacle when germinating plans. Part of the dynamic for looking into new locations for facilities, is trying to find the best location for players and spectators alike, said Steve Tollison, athletic facility program director.
And striking that delicate balance can be tricky. The University’s Master Plan hopefully inspires the University to look at the big picture and long-term implications of what it is doing, said Larry Anderson, director of the Master Planning Office. The new stadiums fit into the Master Plan because sports needs to be a visible component of the University, Anderson added.
The Master Plan is a dynamic document to guide thinking when the University proceeds with change. It outlines three principles to provide a larger assessment of how to deal with the needs of athletics: First, it takes a look at how University programs interrelate; second, it develops a strategy for future development within that context. All this happens while keeping in mind that these programs are highly visible components of the University.
While the construction of new facilities is extolled as a victory for women’s athletics, the battle was won 26 years ago.
In 1972, the U.S. Congress passed the Educational Amendment Act to include Title IX. The federal mandate states that no person in educational institutions can be excluded from activity based on sex. This included equally accommodating men and women in terms of sports participation opportunities, practice time, travel, scholarships and facilities.
“We’re behind and it is appropriate that the needs of our students are accommodated,” Voelz said.
Title IX does not mean men and women must have exactly the same things, just that they must be equally accommodated.
Men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart said men’s athletics has been treated fairly in the age of Title IX and has been allowed to remain competitive with other schools.
“From our perspective, we’re close to what is being spent in terms of women’s upgrading,” said Dienhart. “We’re fighting an uphill battle in a lot of ways and are trying to stay in touch with a new era.”
In the push-and-pull that is garnering facilities and funding for athletics, men and women are equal in theory — but the reality is that women are still catching up.
“Why do you pass a federal law? Because something is wrong,” Voelz said.
She said that in 10 years at the University, she has seen a constant improvement in women’s athletics.
“Our students will feel like whole, proud women,” Voelz said. “They will practice in a better environment and they will compete in a better environment. People will think, ‘Gosh, I want to go to the U.’ I think it will be a magnet.”
Men’s and Women’s Tennis
The joint tennis and hockey facility which will be built next to Mariucci Arena where the outdoor courts now stand, is the most expensive project of the three. About $16 million has already been gathered from the state and private donors, Voelz said. The final price tag for the facility has yet to be determined.
In February the University will put out the facilities bids for all of the new facilities for the second time.
“Right now there is so much construction and so many jobs that no one’s hungry so the bids come in high. It’s a difficult time,” Voelz said.
Men’s tennis coach David Geatz said the department of men’s athletics has a baseline goal to raise $1 million to ensure the facility is a first class institution.
“I’m really excited about the facility,” Geatz said. “It’s nice to have a place of our own where we can schedule, get courts for practice and have early morning workouts.”
The tennis arena has indoor courts for both men and women, space for physical education classes, and adjacent outdoor courts. Besides team locker rooms, the facility will house locker rooms for other people wanting to play. The facility will also boast a small training room, equipment storage, coaches offices and a ‘party’ room for small conferences between teams.
“The men’s and women’s tennis teams are going to be in a wonderful position to be able to have less arduous conditions to practice,” said Voelz.
Women’s Hockey
Sharing the entrance to the new building with the tennis facility, the women’s hockey team will skate on its own ice. Reasons for the constructing the building vary, but the overriding justification stems from an overlap in scheduling at Mariucci Arena.
“Building the new arena is in the best interest of both programs,” said Craig Roberts, executive assistant for women’s athletics.
“It is an awesome opportunity for us as a team to have a place to call home — everyone is excited about having our own place to go,” said Emily Buchholz, a second-year hockey player. “It will be great as a women’s athletic environment.”
In conjunction with men’s and women’s tennis, the program received $10 million from the state Legislature three years ago. A year later, another $3 million was allocated, along with $3.2 million in internal gifts and contributions, and the construction is set to begin.
Built on the current location of the tennis courts bordering Fourth Street Southeast and Mariucci Arena, the tentative construction date for the new facility is April 1999, while the completion date is set for September 2000.
Women’s hockey became a varsity sport last year. Since that time, the team has been sharing the ice with the men at Mariucci Arena. With the new arena, the women’s team won’t have to schedule around the men, Voelz said.
Although the women will soon have a place of their own, Buchholz said playing at Mariucci is not a hardship for the team. “Playing at Mariucci has been great, we get equal ice time and the men’s program has been good with sharing the facility,” Buchholz said. “But we won’t miss it much.”
While the ice sheet at the new arena will be the same size as that of Mariucci, the new, smaller arena gives the women an atmosphere more conducive to

their game. In a more intimate setting, fans can better appreciate the women’s style of games with less physical contact, more skating and more passing, Voelz said.
A varsity sport at the University since 1975, softball has used Bierman field for 17 years. Women’s athletics has been searching for an area to relocate the field for several years, but because of limited land around the University, the best option is adding on to the existing field.
Voelz said what is now just a bare-bones field with bleachers will, by the spring of 2000, be transformed into a stadium with permanent seating, a bleacher area, a team room, bathrooms for the team and spectators and a press box which is required by the National Collegiate Athletics Association. Additionally, the field will have a new irrigation system. Construction on Bierman is scheduled to begin in fall of 1999.
“When it is built it is going to be amazing,” said Steph Klaviter, a senior softball player. “Just looking at the layout I got pumped up.”
“It is going to be a first-class experience for the student athletes,” Voelz added.
The plans for the juiced-up softball field also exceeded the department’s expectations in terms of financing. Athletics designed the facility in line with what they thought the architects and construction firms were asking. However, Voelz said athletics’ plans fell over budget by 42 percent.
“That’s unheard of in a $2 million dollar facility. It caused us to back up and say, ‘How do we get more people to bid, how do we package this and how do we do value engineering?'” she added.
Voelz said the biggest problem the University has encountered with the softball facility is funding — putting women’s athletics in the unpleasant position of delaying the project for a year.
Women’s Soccer
After months of controversy and discussion between the University and the community about the location of the new soccer stadium, the Board of Regents finally structured a compromise with the citizens of Falcon Heights last month. With construction set to begin this spring, the new stadium will be complete in fall 1999.
The University has been searching for a location for the new soccer facility since it has been an intercollegiate sport, Tollison said. Until now, the team had no permanent home.
The new stadium will be built on the current location of the recreational soccer fields, near the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul north of Gibbs Farm. The recreational soccer fields will be relocated to the University sheep yards; the sheep will go to the University campus in Morris.
“It was a very good win-win situation where we had a lot of conversation with the neighborhoods, we had internal conversation and we looked for alternatives,” said Voelz. “We decided if we could do a little domino action, we end up with everyone getting a win out of it.”
Freshman soccer player Julie Montgomery said the old field was the right size, but not the greatest in terms of parking and stands. The new arena creates a feeling of excitement and is a better atmosphere for playing.
“It is always easier to get teams from farther away — teams of better caliber — if you have a good field,” Montgomery added. “It gives us a reason to back up the way we’re playing.”
“The (site) for soccer certainly was a speed bump and something absolutely unexpected because we have been there for five years,” Voelz said. “We simply wanted to turn the Port-a-Potties into bathrooms, the portable bleachers into a stadium — we just wanted to make the place nicer.”
Women’s soccer coach Sue Montagne said the stadium arose from a lot of hard work from Voelz, Donna Olson, the senior associate director of women’s athletics, the regents and University President Mark Yudof. She said if people did not support the effort, it wouldn’t have happened. “There really is a lot of support for this,” Montagne added.
“It’s about time this team gets the respect we deserve. It is long overdue,” Montgomery said.