The dome didn’t fit: A problem with space costs U athletics $246,000

The new Student Recreational Sports Field Complex ran into the track and field throwers pit.

by Betsy Helfand

Because of a lack of space, the recently-completed $7.2-million turfed intramural complex came with an extra expense of more than $200,000.

The fields, which are now covered by a dome, were built too close to the existing throwers pit for the track and field team, in which athletes throw the shot put, discus and hammer.

The Department of Recreational Sports loaned the athletic department $246,000 to relocate the pit.

The athletic department knew of the impending relocation and âÄúworked with Rec Sports all along on where the best location was,âÄù according to Scott Ellison, the associate athletic director for facilities.

The $7.2 million to build the facility came out of the $80 million plan for the expansion of the Recreation Center and other recreation sports facilities, paid for by an increase in student fees.

In June 2008, the Board of Regents approved the Capital Enhancement Fee, which by fall 2012 will be costing students $75 per semester.

The loan to the track and field team will not come out of that fund, but rather from the UniversityâÄôs central administration. The athletic department will have to pay back the loan within the fiscal year, according to Ellison.

The new recreational sports dome complex  will be used for intramural sports, club sports and general student use when it opens at the beginning of spring semester.

After the athletic department had budgeted for a temporary move, the Department of Recreational Sports offered to loan the athletic department the money to find a more permanent solution, Ellison said.

âÄúWhen they did that, it was a no-brainer for us. We said, âÄòYes, if you want to loan us the money, we can go ahead and move into the permanent location,âÄôâÄù Ellison said.

âÄúAs far as whoâÄôs paying for the project, itâÄôs our facility so we should pay for it. The track team does not have to worry about any money coming out of their budget to do this,âÄù Ellison said. âÄúItâÄôs all through the money that is budgeted for the overall athletic department.âÄù

The cost of the relocation was increased because the athletic department had to buy a new cage, tear out asphalt, put in a retaining wall and put up a safety net, among other things, Ellison said.

He added that the new cage will be in the same area as the old one, but athletes will throw in the opposite direction onto the old band field.

Though the relocation will be expensive, Ellison said he sees the process as positive.

âÄúWe ended up with a permanent facility which is probably one of the best in the Big Ten, if not close to being one of the best in the country. ItâÄôs a major improvement for the Bierman Complex and for the throwers,âÄù he said.

âÄúI think itâÄôs a beautiful area now, and I think the dome is a great improvement for the University at large,âÄù throws coach Lynden Reder said.

âÄúItâÄôs drastically improved from what has been there in the past and âĦ we feel good about it ultimately.âÄù

In addition to the track and field team, many intramural and club sports teams will benefit from the new dome. Proponents say the complex will correct longstanding issues that club and intramural teams have faced.

The menâÄôs club soccer team, which has become accustomed to traveling to the fields at Cleveland and Larpenteur avenues on the St. Paul campus, will be one of the many teams using the complex.

MenâÄôs club soccer coach Alan Merrick said that the team has had to cut short many of its practices because it was dark and the St. Paul campus fields arenâÄôt lighted.

The complex, which will be domed from November to April, will provide necessary lighting for teams to practice.

Along with lighting and scheduling, the addition of a synthetic turf field will help eliminate problems that teams routinely face.

The rugby team, which holds its practices on the tennis court in the Field House, has long faced the problem of not being able to properly simulate a game because players couldnâÄôt tackle.

âÄúWe can use [the synthetic field] exactly as we would use a grass field. You can tackle on it, you can run around on it, you can wear cleats,âÄù Ryan Mintz,  the rugby club president, said.

Mintz said the opportunity to practice on a synthetic turf field will give the rugby team an opportunity to âÄúcatch up with the teams who play out in California and down south a lot better.âÄù

The approximately 90,000-square-feet the new complex provides should help alleviate scheduling conflicts that existed in the past.

The rugby team, which held practices immediately following open gym hours at the Field House, often had to âÄúgo in there and kick whoever was in there out,âÄù Mintz said. âÄúIt wasnâÄôt a scheduling issue as much as it was there was not enough space for everybody.âÄù 

 âÄúIf you look at all the collective problems and issues, you could probably deduce that it was needed,âÄù menâÄôs soccer club president Trevor Goodwin said.