April 23, 2002

Home of the Red: Examining Cornell's Athletic Facilities

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In July, 1875, just 10 years after Cornell University was founded, the varsity crew found itself sitting at the head of Lake Saratoga readying for a race against the best rowers the collegiate ranks had to offer. Considered heavy underdogs, Cornell confounded the pundits that day, defeating the 12 other crews, including favorite Harvard. The crew returned home heroes, and President Andrew Dickson White declared that that single victory did more for the reputation of Cornell than anything else possibly could have. And so began the tight relationship between Cornell and its storied athletic program.

Much has changed in the 127 years since that race, but the bonds between Cornell University and the Red has remained as strong. Today, 36 varsity athletic teams represent Cornell every weekend in games throughout the Ivy League and the country. The success of these teams means the success of Cornell.

In order to ensure that success for years to come, the Department of Athletics and Physical Education has many plans in the works for capital improvements for the fields, gyms, and buildings used daily by the entire community, not just the 1,000 student-athletes. These improvements come as part of a $100 million campaign to increase the endowment of Cornell athletics that primarily focuses on heightened financial support for all teams.

Following its most successful season ever, the wrestling team will have another exciting addition to look forward to next year. A new wrestling center is currently under construction adjacent to Bartels Hall. When completed in October, it will provide space for practice, meets, and training for the squad’s 36 members in one place, instead of shuttling between the limited practice space in Teagle Hall, and the Friedman Strength and Conditioning Center in Bartels.

“[This project] grew out of a desire to get away from shared space,” said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services. “We wanted to provide dedicated space for both the wrestling and gymnastics programs.”

“As a training tool, [the wrestling center] will be second to none,” said wrestling head coach Rob Koll. “We’ll have everyone practice at once [rather than just 20 wrestlers at a time.]”

The 1,100-seat arena will also provide a much more intimate atmosphere for meets than currently exists in Newman Arena.

“We’ll be able to wrestle matches at a decent hour,” said Koll. “I remember one match that ended at 12 at night, which was insane.”

This new facility should also be a great help in recruiting. The state of the art facility will rival those of the top wrestling teams in the country and, coupled with the caliber of education offered by Cornell, will be a powerful tool in Koll’s recruiting arsenal.

“It should be the best in the country,” raved Koll. “It’s the only stand-alone building, which sets it apart.”

All three crews can also look forward to improvements in their own facilities, as the Collyer Boathouse and Robison Shell House will be replaced by a new rowing center, currently in the planning stages. Collyer, built in 1957, houses the men’s heavyweight and lightweight crews. Robison is home to the women’s crew. Both structures, while more than adequate when built, are beginning to show their age.

The new rowing center will provide 52 percent more space than Collyer and Robison combined. This additional space will be devoted to weight lifting and ergometers. Also, the locker rooms for the men’s and women’s crews will be of comparable quality. Robison, the women’s facility, is much smaller than Collyer.

“The boathouse was the most pressing [of the athletic projects] because of gender equity and the need for space,” explained Murphy.

Cornell’s rowing center will draw upon the best features of boathouses around the Ivy League. The two-floor facility will provide good access to Cayuga Lake, offices and meeting rooms, and space to display artifacts of the rich history of rowing at Cornell.

Schoellkopf Hall, which houses the football and men’s lacrosse teams, is slated for serious renovation in the near future as well. Most notably, the Cornell Fitness Center gym located on the third floor will be replaced by offices and classrooms for the football team. These rooms will provide more space for much of the coaching staff, as well as classrooms for players to study and for the team to watch film. The fitness equipment will be moved across the street to the space in Teagle vacated by the wrestling team.

The first floor locker rooms and showers will also be renovated, as will the second floor Hall of Fame room, which will be expanded into a new Tradition Gallery, which will take up most of the second level. This room will provide space for special events, Presidential receptions, and receptions held in conjunction with athletic events. Additionally, it will showcase the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame and historical items of the football team.

“There was an interest in creating a sense of history of the Cornell football program,” Murphy said.

The exterior and entrance way of the 75-year-old building will not be changed in order to preserve the tradition they represent.

Helen Newman Hall on North Campus was constructed in 1963 as a home for women’s athletics. Now an important part of the North Campus Residential Initiative, the demand for the facilities available in Helen Newman has outgrown the available spacebuttCornell Fitness Center, basketball court, lap pool, and bowling alley draw about 2,000 visitors daily to the facility.

“With 3,700 students on North Campus, we knew we needed to expand recreation space,” said Murphy. “Unlike some institutions which chose to build one central recreation facility, we chose to provide recreation in disparate locations [on campus.]”

Most crowded is the basketball court, which usually compels people to wait for nearly an hour to find space on the floor.

A second basketball court, in addition to a new lap pool and new locker rooms, is planned. The building will also receive structural improvements so that its fa