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Facilities redux: Is this really the start of the process

We've talked -- and talked and talked and talked - ad nauseum about the desperate need for Rutgers to upgrade its athletic facilities. Patrick Hobbs says he's meeting with architects. I don't know about you but I'm....intrigued.


It was reported by Jerry Carino that Patrick Hobbs was ready to move on facilities.

And Hobbs mentioned it, too, at a meeting of the Cagers Club, the women's basketball support group, the day before Carino broke the story.

So, what does it all mean?  Will there be shovels in the ground any time soon?  Hey, this is Rutgers and New Jersey...."soon" could mean the next millennium.  Although personally, based on what we've seen of Hobbs, I doubt that very much.

There were three areas that Carino reported in his story that Hobbs mentioned.  Let's look at each one.

Livingston Campus Multi-sport Facility

That isn't my term but it will do.  This is what everyone has been focusing on, the one significant piece of the athletics puzzle that could turn the Rutgers program around.  A practice facility for basketball is needed, and no one except a few narrow-minded, blinders-on academics would challenge that.  State Senator Ray Lesniak sponsored a bill that would allocate $25 million in tax credits to get the ball rolling.  The bill would focus on a parking facility - something athletics and the neighboring Rutgers Business School could use - that would be the foundation of the other athletic facilities.  Specifically, the bill "provides up to $25 million in tax credits under Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Program for certain infrastructure at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey."  It passed the Senate by a 37-3 vote in June.  An identical companion bill, A4704 was introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan.

This facility would also house new practice facilities for Wrestling and Volleyball.  Both currently practice in the College Avenue Gym.  An upgrade of this type would be a tremendous boon for a wrestling program that is already competitive in the Big Ten.  For volleyball, which has struggled both in the new conference and prior iterations, it could only help.

Hale Center

Back when the Master Plan was released, there was a thought that the area under the south endzone (student section) would be fitted for locker rooms for a variety of sports.  Keith Sargeant, who broke the master plan story, reported:

The 2009 renovations to the stadium created seating at the south end of the field and created a large unfinished area below the seats. This area is proposed to be fitted out as locker rooms and athletics support space. Visiting team locker space will improve game operations management. Preliminary studies include a connection between the Hale Center and the south end.

Even earlier than the master plan - April to be exact - there was discussion to move soccer and lacrosse:

.... the concept calls for the men's and women's soccer teams, the men's and women's lacrosse teams and possibly other Olympic sports programs to move into a training center housed underneath the south end zone bleachers at High Point Solutions Stadium....

I hated the idea. And still do.

You'd be moving those four sports (men and women) farther away from their practice and competition areas.  In essence, you were using empty space for those sports because it was available.  It was, to me, Rutgers at its best: save money anywhere we can, even if it looks cheap and second class.  Well, our new AD may have the same thoughts as me.  And I'll explore that in the next section.

As for the Hale Center, it is good as is, maybe very good.  But Pat Hobbs thinks we can do better in order to move the needle on the program.  And he's already been talking with Chris Ash about ideas.  I'm still intrigued.

Soccer and Lacrosse Upgrades

If you look at what soccer did this year, they absolutely deserve something.  And the Carino story points to:

A facility at Yurcak Field for men's and women's soccer and men's and women's lacrosse is on the table.

"There's a lot of interest on the part of both soccer and lacrosse alums to see that happen," Hobbs said. "I'm hoping that interest translates financially."

Now, what that facility is isn't detailed.  But I had an idea back in March, and reiterated it after the Master Plan was made public.  What soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey need is a major field house or an indoor practice area.  And the Master plan - and OTB - said it.  From the Master Plan:

"field house for field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, and track and field use, which will include locker rooms and restrooms."`

From the OTB story in March:

Priority 3, Indoor Practice/Team Facility:  Wait, you say, what was number 2 for if we're doing it again?  AHA! But we aren't, because this indoor facility is for the "field sports": Soccer, Lacrosse, Field Hockey.  It provides an indoor venue for practice, new locker/team facilities close to their fields, and opens space in both the RAC and the Hale Center for other uses.  Oh, did I mention that we're adding a full band practice hall and offices so the band has a permanent home and a place to practice indoors?  Yeah, that's there, too.

In our plan it would take the spot the Bubble currently sits on, adjacent to the Miller Practice Fields and just a corner kick from Yurcak. And you build a field hockey only stadium nearby, too.

So, what about the idea of moving soccer and lacrosse under the south endzone?  As I said above, I hated the idea because it seemed to just push programs into available space rather than building something for them.  Hobbs is with me:

"We don't want to any programs to feel crowded or second-class, because we really can have excellence across all of our sports," he said. "The worst thing we can have is a facility opens up and we have regrets about it, or it doesn't work for a program or two and we have to redesign it."

Thanks, Pat, that's what I said.

Bottom line?  Will it happen?  and when?

The issue of facilities has been a thorn in Rutgers side for literally decades.  The corrective and developmental measures that were taken have been half-hearted (among other anatomical areas) and often ill-conceived.  It was always done on the cheap.  It's time to grow up and act like a major university.

We all know what's needed.  The Master Plan detailed it, albeit in broad strokes.  Patrick Hobbs is meeting architects, so it's safe to say there's a green light coming from Old Queens.  I'm going to guess, with no inside knowledge, that there could be an announcement about starting the multi-sport facility at least by March Madness.  Sort of has a nice symmetry to it, doesn't it?