Field house of dreams
UB Athletics, athletes and students weigh in on the upcoming field house
UB President Satish Tripathi said at the field house groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 7 that the field house will be open to all students. However, the field house will only be available for athletes on Division I, club and intramural teams, according to an official statement from UB Athletics.
Athletics is overseeing construction of the $18 million Murchie Family Fieldhouse, which is set to finish in spring 2019.
“It will house the all-around student experience in terms of recreation activities, so not just student-athletes, but the entire university actually,” Tripathi said at the ceremony.
UB Athletic Director Allen Greene said the general student body would be able to use the field house.
“The field house will be an asset to the entire university community as it will also be utilized by intramurals and sports clubs as well as the general student population. Once the facility is built, we will work on a schedule that will best benefit everyone,” Greene said.
But an official statement from athletics said, "the fieldhouse will be available for club sports and intramurals, but due to scheduling, it will not be available for open recreation."
Most students don’t seem to be concerned that the field house will not be open to everyone.
“Everyone is focused on football but it being available to teams outside athletics makes it a good thing for all the UB sports teams,” said Max Lort, a junior exercise science major.
Dakota Rogers, freshman intended nursing major, also does not think the field house needs to be open to everyone.
“It seems unnecessary for students to have access [to the field house] if we already have Alumni and all the other gyms on campus. It will give athletes somewhere to go, so hopefully it helps with how crowded Alumni can be,” Rogers said.
Athletics hopes the field house will take pressure off the Alumni fitness center.
The field house will be 92,000 square feet and house a full turf football field, rubber sprinting tracks, a triple jump pit, a pole vaulting pit and softball hitting tunnels. Athletics has stated that the new field house will benefit a multitude of teams, not just Division-I, while also acting as a key recruiting tool going forward.
“The field house project has been a priority for nearly two decades and serves student-athletes in the same manner as classroom space, libraries or labs for students,” Greene said in a Spectrum Q&A.
In March, UB Athletics made the decision to cut four Division-I teams, stating the department was underfunded. Athletics announced the field house six months later.
Greene and athletics stated the cuts were not a direct result of the field house, despite popular opinion.
“The announcement of the field house and the decision to discontinue sport offerings are two, mutually exclusive events,” Greene said. “We operate on a vibrant campus that has a multitude of things happening simultaneously on any given day.”
Athletics stated the field house will be paid solely by donations and money the department receives from the NCAA paid over a 15-year loan. Despite the ambition in the project, students are still reluctant to support the decision to build the field house.
“I think it is a good thing for one team but it is not necessarily OK to cut funding for a lot of other teams,” Rogers said. “It probably would have happened no matter what, but it made the cuts easier to explain.”
Athletics is too focused on football and missing opportunities to grow other UB sports.
“UB’s football program could grow from this but there is not a huge market for college football. I feel people are more interested in the Bills here,” said George Cunningham, junior psychology and business major. “I would have liked to see them giving something more to the basketball team. There is no pro team here and I feel there is a huge market for that. … I would like to see UB become more basketball focused and move into a conference like the Big East. We could pack the gym and pick up big upsets along with more national exposure.”
All players interviewed were excited to be able to train on-campus year-round.
“It is exciting, we are finally getting an indoor facility. Being here in Buffalo it gets cold in the winter, so it is nice to not have to travel to an off-campus facility just to practice,” said sophomore soccer defender Gurjeena Jandu. “There are a lot of people investing in us so I just want to make the most out of the opportunity.”
Freshman soccer midfielder Marcella Barberic called the field house a “necessity.” Barberic is from the Buffalo area and played her pre-collegiate career in the area. She feels the field house is a huge benefit.
“This will definitely help improve and grow the program. We can definitely have more focused practices in the winter and it will make it easier to get new recruits,” Barberic said.
Program growth makes students like Lort excited for the new field house.
Lort works as the UB equipment manager under UB athletics and helps teams set up for practice and games. Lort is a constant fixture at many UB home games and feels the field house could improve the athletic climate on campus.
“Right now, the UB sports atmosphere is mediocre. Our fans show up for games and most of them leave at halftime no matter the score,” Lort said. “I think we are primed given our school size and the sports atmosphere in Buffalo to turn our athletic teams into something students will want to see.”
Lort feels the Bulls need to win in order for the UB community to have pride in athletics. He also thinks the program will grow in student interest and revenue once the teams start performing.
Thomas Zafonte is a co-senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org