Athletics facilities might see repairs, upgrades

by Jake Grovum

While the future home of TCF Bank Stadium begins to take shape, athletics department officials have begun to look elsewhere to make improvements to facilities.

Talks of facility upgrades and department needs are part of a “yearlong overall assessment” of the athletics department now and for the future, athletics director Joel Maturi said.

“I think the biggest mistake we can make is (to) knee-jerk react,” he said. “What we’re

in the process of doing is really taking a good look at the big picture and what we think our needs are.”

Currently, the athletics department is working to move its needs into one place, associate athletics director for events and facilities management Scott Ellison said.

Officials will then work with a consultant to decide which needs are most important for the athletics department and work from there, Ellison said.

“Trying to get more organized is the best way to put it,” he said. “That kind of puts everything into one document that we can use to help raise funds.”

The first draft of athletics department plans should be ready by December, and no anticipated cost will be announced until then, Ellison said.

Athletics department officials have decided baseball stadium Siebert Field and the track at the Bierman Track and Field Complex need attention. Maturi said the Bierman track is in “such a condition we are not even able to hold home meets on it.”

For projects that lend themselves to fundraising, such as Siebert Field and TCF Bank Stadium, athletics officials pay for them with donations and gifts, senior associate athletics director Elizabeth Eull said.

Improvements for other facilities that might not get enough donations, such as the track, will need to be paid for through other means.

Athletics officials will either ask the University for a loan or set aside money each year to pay for such improvements, Eull said. Loan money will likely be used for the track.

Of all the athletics department’s concerns, the baseball stadium is a “high priority,” Maturi said.

The main problem with Siebert Field is pedestrian access to the site, Ellison said.

Officials first looked to change the orientation of the field to better accommodate fans, but Ellison said baseball head coach John Anderson was against any such change.

Currently, the plan is to build around the existing structure to provide better access, Ellison said.

Officials also named facilities for wrestling practice, gymnastics and basketball practice as items that need to be built or require improvements.

The need for a basketball practice facility is something men’s basketball head coach Tubby Smith “feels strongly” about, Maturi said.

“We don’t have a weight room in there for our basketball team, not that it’s the end of the world,” he said. “During the winter they end up going across the street from their locker room, lifting elsewhere.”

The need for a basketball practice facility goes beyond the desires of the coaching staff and current student-athletes, Maturi said.

“It sounds like a little thing, but to recruits it can be a big thing,” he said.

Maturi said the athletic competition between schools also affects the department’s needs.

“Rightly or wrongly, this becomes an arms race a little bit, (but) we’re not going to do anything crazy,” he said. “There are lots of issues – none of them are going to be fixed tomorrow.”

While some of the needs might be more immediate than others, officials will take time to make sure the proper needs are met.

“We’re not going to be frivolous,” Maturi said. “At the same time we’re going to do our due diligence and prioritize (our needs).”