October 17, 2001

Alumni Fields May Be Site of Future Genomics Building

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This weekend, University administrators will announce that, among other possibilities, Cornell’s only grass athletic practice fields may be used as the site of its projected building dedicated to the study and research of the life sciences.

Members of the Cornell Genomics Initiative identified Alumni Fields, located between the Field House and Tower Rd., as a potential location of a building that would “integrate research and education and provide accessibility to students and faculty in a central location,” according to Prof. Stephen Kresovich, plant breeding and plant biology.

Kresovich, who is the chair of the planning committee for the building, noted that Getty Center architect Richard Meier “has been involved in the preliminary planning and design” of the building that will be the center of Cornell’s genomics teaching and research projects.

In their meeting tomorrow, members of the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Buildings and Properties will consider other possible sites for construction, such as the area between Kennedy Hall and the Plant Science building as well as the space on Tower Rd. along the North end of Alumni Fields, according to Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.

University architect Peter Karp will make a presentation to the committee, which will in turn discuss the possibilities with the full Board during its annual meeting on Friday.

President Hunter R. Rawlings III estimated that the programmatic budget of the building project would be approximately $110 million, of which the building project will account for two-thirds, according to Kresovich.

The plans for the Genomics Initiative began four years ago, with Phase I, when the University pledged its commitment to genomics as the science that would lead into the next century.

He noted that the University is currently trying to secure funding through various awards of up to $40 million from the State of New York and, according to Dullea, private fundraising has “been a subject among the Trustees.”

Of concern, however, is the effects construction would have on the layout of athletic facilities — currently the Alumni Fields are used by the men’s and women’s varsity soccer teams, the women’s lacrosse team and the football and sprint football teams. According to Dullea, the building would occupy less than one half of the field area.

“We’ve got to do what we have to do to give faculty and students the best possible academic environment … we don’t have a lot of open space, and there are conflicts among competing needs,” said Dullea.

The University has solicited the opinions of members of the athletic department as well as vice presidents, deans and faculty as they begin to discuss possible locations for the building.

“The Alumni Fields are precious to the athletic department,” said Athletic Director Andy Noel. “The University is listening very closely — what we’re seeking is an end result that is a win-win situation.”

Women’s soccer coach Berhane Andeberhan noted that coaches had been asked to join the dialogue to “write what [we] perceive to be potential impacts.”

The fields’ proximity to campus provides a convenience that is an asset to the programs, according to Andeberhan.

“The point is what we will get to replace them; if they can build practice fields close by, it’s of minimal impact,” he said.

The Genomics Initiative has also identified a central campus location as a high priority for the building project. As the new facility would incorporate a diverse group of departments, colleges and disciplines into its teaching and research goals, so accessibility to students and faculty is essential, according to Kresovich.

“Because of the nature of the Initiative, there is more need for a central space; there will be a crossing of people brought together,” said Prof. Steven Tanksley, plant breeding, who is the Initiative’s task force chair.

Another option for the facility is at the former site of Roberts Hall on the quad of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

“I never like it when the University does something on our behalf without publicizing its intentions first,” said Ari Epstein ’04, Student Assembly representative for CALS, who noted that the S.A. has not been involved in the dialogue.

“No matter where the location is, people will have concerns — the important thing is for them to voice those concerns as we’re in the planning stages,” said Kresovich.

Integrating a great range of disciplines across the colleges, including physics, plant genomics, molecular biology, chemistry and veterinary medicine, Phase II of the Genomics Initiative “will probably not be acted on during this calendar year,” according to Dullea. Kresovich noted that the prospective end date of the project would be in 2006.

Archived article by Alison Thomas