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A rendering of the planned turf complex near the Binghamton University entrance.
Turf field planned for fall
April 7, 2015Tweet
A new, lighted turf field complex has been designed to improve Binghamton University’s intramural sports through its flexibility, sustainability and reliability.
A plan to add the 130,000-square-foot complex has been on the agenda of Campus Recreation for several years as it struggles to consistently provide intramural sports in the face of an the unpredictable New York climate.
“The need has become exceedingly apparent as we continue to have challenges with the spring season,” said Cindy Cowden, senior associate director of Campus Recreational Services at Binghamton University. “We’ve been looking at three seasons in a row of canceling softball. So the combination of everyone realizing where we are, and that we have a need and a great number of students participating, made the timing right to get support from the division to move the project forward.”
Cowden expects the field to be finished in a short period of time. The plan, she said, is for ground to be broken after Spring Commencement, around the beginning of June, and hopefully for the complex to be open and playable for the start of the intramural season in September.
The main function of the field is to expand and increase the scope of intramural activities. But Cowden said there is also the potential for club sports teams to utilize the lighted facility, as well, based on schedule availability.
The turf will replace fields six and seven, just below the track at the entrance of the University. New York’s weather often puts the current grass fields out of play and the fields it will replace have notoriously been waterlogged and impossible to play on if conditions are not perfect.
“Students frequently tell us how disappointed they are that finally when spring finally gets here and it’s the first beautiful sunshiny weekend comes out, and it’s supposed to be the opening weekend for softball but the fields are just so saturated that we have to cancel play,” Cowden said.
It’s not just softball that suffers from these periodic setbacks: heavy rains and moist grass fields also affect fall intramural leagues. Shannon Leary is a club soccer player and has competed in outdoor intramural soccer in the past.
“I have played in the fall, and been affected by games being canceled due to poor field conditions,” said Leary, a junior biochemistry major from Long Island. “It makes the season basically one game and then playoffs. I’m excited for the turf field. It’ll allow the season to finally be played and we won’t have to worry more about injuries from poor field conditions.”
Leary’s club soccer president, Andrea Brea, echoed the point. While Brea is graduating in May, she said she is excited for the potential opportunities the field opens up.
“A lot of times in the past we’ve had issues with weather – not uncommon for the Binghamton area – and we have had to cancel or postpone games and tournaments,” Brea said. “Hopefully with this new addition we won’t have to worry about this as much and can maximize our season.”
Campus Recreation estimates that 6,000 students annually play club sports, intramurals or both annually. Cowden said working around the weather to accommodate all these students was becoming almost nearly impossible.
Another important aspect of the complex is not just the turf itself, but the lights.
“With daylight savings and the time frame we have to work with, having lights will allow us to play intramurals and/or have practices into the evening hours. Right now we are limited to weekend play, outside of what’s available at the West Gym,” Cowden said, pointing beyond her windows to the dark clouds rolling in. “As it gets more challenging for us to secure additional time slots in the West Gym for intramurals, the turf opens up new opportunities – and having lights elevates it to a whole different level.”
Brea echoed this point from a player’s perspective.
“Playing under the lights is another amazing possibility,” Brea said. “It is a thrilling experience and heightens the intensity and excitement for any match.”
Cowden said the design and set-up of the turf field would will allow Campus Rec to be more flexible with space. She said the complex is large enough to have multiple practices occurring simultaneously.
The emphasis, Cowden said, will be to provide a more stable setting to certain intramural teams, but she added that she could not rule out other sports being introduced to the mix.
“The focus has been especially on soccer, flag football and softball because those are activities that have a longstanding history with the student body in terms of popularity,” Cowden said. “But that does not exclude the potential of offering a number of different or new sports. For example, this past fall was the first semester we offered bubble soccer as an intramural sport. We’re always open to feedback and comment from students.”
The introduction of the new turf field will not damage the other fields that Binghamton relies heavily on to support its more than 30 club and intramural teams.
“We have been very sensitive to making sure that there is as limited disruption to the other natural grass fields as possible while they are constructing the artificial turf,” Cowden said. “We don’t want to take additional fields offline in the fall because we will still need them. They still play an important role.”
Cowden also mentioned the possibility of adding another grass field. She said the re-leveling of the ground next to the creek by Route 434 would provide the right amount of drainage to make the field playable more often, at least on paper.
While intramural sports participation at universities has been dropping across the country, Cowden said that Binghamton University has experienced an increase. She suggested that the conversion to an online website – IMLeagues –—for intramural registration has made the process easier and more efficient. Rather than having to track down posters, information on leagues and schedules is right at a student’s fingertips.
Cowden hopes that the creation of a new and flexible facility will only increase the number of students on campus looking to participate.
“I think just having the field in that placement, where other people can see what’s going on, and knowing there’s a little more stability in scheduling may help more students come out and be active,” she said.
She also speculated the student body itself is changing, with wants and needs shifting away from what they used to be.
“We’re on an upward trajectory for participation,” she said. “With the right facilities and service in place we can continue to provide quality experiences for our students, faculty and staff.”
Cowden is confident that the placement of the field at the entrance of campus is just as motivating for students as its potential for stability. She said she believes that it’s a great way to showcase all the University has to offer.
“We have worked very closely with Physical Facilities in terms of selecting a location that is both appropriate for the venue and can also highlight and showcase the student activities and programs that are taking place,” she said.
The inclusion of the complex comes with the hope from Campus Rec that students who participate in club sports and intramurals will stick around and not be left disappointed. At least when the unpredictable conditions of the weather descend upon campus, there will be a way to be flexible and provide students with something, rather than canceling games.
“What we’re expecting is the turf and the lights will allow us to expand both the breadth and depth of the programming that we’re offering on campus, so we can accommodate more students,” she said.