Precedent over all else
Do other field houses justify the cost of UB's new one?
Why does UB need a new fieldhouse and why is the university willing to spend so much money on it? I spoke with students, faculty and people throughout Amherst about this and the common defense was that we look bad without one.
To be clear, they aren’t saying that the school looks bad aesthetically or is less of a school for not having one. Instead, it seems this issue is more about a precedent that people feel exist from being a SUNY school or being in the MAC conference.
But is precedent a good enough reason for the university to spend $18 million on a field house?
Other schools in the SUNY system - SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Plattsburgh - have fieldhouses. However, these are not for football. They are practice centers that house an indoor track and basketball courts. UB will be the first SUNY school to have a field house that has an indoor turf field.
There is no precedent for us as a SUNY school to get a fieldhouse. This becomes increasingly more clear once you realize that other SUNY fieldhouses offer what UB has at Alumni Arena.
The MAC is a different story, only four teams in the conference don’t have an indoor football field, UB included. This is an issue, as indoor fields give a team a strong advantage when it comes to training in the winter. The facility itself would make the Bulls football program more competitive with other teams in the MAC.
For me, this justifies the field house. If the Bulls are ever going to become a consistent program they need to be on an equal playing field for conference games. Yet the price still seems steep for what we are getting.
Bowling Green State University has the Perry Field House, which was built in 1993 and costs $8.7 million. The field house involves two wings, one has two turf fields and the other has four basketball courts and an indoor track.
UB’s initial plan for the field house call for a full turf field, long jumping and pole vaulting pits and a softball batting tunnel.
I’m left wondering how much each of these facilities cost, as Eastern Michigan University built their indoor field in 2010 for $3.9 million. At that price, UB could pay for an indoor field with the donations they currently have for the field house alone.
Most students I talk to about the field house only seem upset. It boils down to students not wanting to see more money put into football when they see issues on campus that need to be resolved.
It’s hard not to wonder what $18 million can do for the university. It could solve the school's parking situation while circling parking lots for a spot. Yet, the school has confirmed the money involved isn’t coming from students or state funding. The school has implemented a 15 year payment plan that will make the field house possible through donors and the school's yearly college playoff funds.
This feels like a silver lining; Athletics won’t have to make any more cuts because they will have the means to pay for the field house as long as we stay in the NCAA.
But I’m still left wondering why UB isn’t trying to build a cheaper facility. It seems very possible to do this project for a lot less and still get a similar end result. People still have UB’s decision to cut four athletic teams last April fresh in their minds. So why isn’t the athletic department spending like it is underfunded?
If we are trying to be like teams in the MAC, why not actually be like them and build a cheaper field house?
Thomas Zafonte is a senior sports editor and can be reached at Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org