April 24, 2002

Home of the Red: Examining Cornell's Athletic Facilities

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On June 1, 1925, baseball hero Lou Gehrig took the field for the first of his 2,130 consecutive games, the legendary streak that stood for 56 years. Two years before that spring, Gehrig was a student at Columbia University, showcasing his power on Ivy League fields. One of those fields that Gehrig played on, Hoy Field, is graced today by the likes of Cornellians Erik Rico, Andrew Luria, and Brendan McQuaid.

The Cornell athletes of 2002 compete on fields and in buildings that have stood for many decades and witnessed many historic events, both athletic and otherwise. Despite the age of these facilities, the University has done an excellent job keeping Cornell’s athletic facilities among the best in the nation.

For each sport, the University has actively tried to maintain top-flight fields, arenas, and weight rooms. On the whole, it has done an excellent job.

“For track and field and cross country, they are clearly the best in the league and they are amongst the best in the nation, bar none,” stated head women’s track coach Lou Duesing.

“In lacrosse, when we’re up against some of the top recruiters and it comes down to facilities, you’d be hard pressed to find a university that has the facilities that we do,” said men’s lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni.

In spite of the age of many of the fields — Hoy is in its 80th year and Schoellkopf Field will turn 87 in October — Cornell’s athletes are treated to dedicated weight rooms, continually resurfaced fields and tracks, and alumni attention that leads to strong support for the teams.

The Robert J. Kane ’34 Sports Complex, which was built using funds from alumni donations, was completed in 1996. Its track is state-of-the-art and it has multiple jumping pits to negate the effects of wind. The throwing area is close in proximity. The Kane Complex is a far cry from previous years’ outdoor track facilities — which didn’t exist at Cornell.

“Before we had these facilities, I used to have to go down to the high school for practice or use the facilities at Ithaca College if we hosted an outdoor meet. It was embarrassing,” remarked Duesing. “It was tough on the students, because practice time wasn’t easy to control.

“There’s a tendency of those who lack the perspective that we have to take what we have for granted, so I take it as one of my charges to continue to remind them how fortunate they are.”

Older fields such as Schoellkopf have been far from neglected over the years. After the dedication of the field in 1915, improvements have been made to the gridiron such as floodlights in 1920, expansions to the seating area in 1924 and 1947, the installation of artificial turf in 1971, and the construction of a press box in 1986. The turf has been replaced three times since ’71, the latest instance in 1999.

“The University and our alums do a pretty decent job keeping us up to date,” observed Tambroni.

However, Schoellkopf isn’t all about continuous improvements. Part of its attraction is its history and tradition.

“It’s the fifth oldest stadium in the country. The crescent is totally unique. It’s one of the most beautiful stadiums I’ve ever seen,” lauded Director of Football Operations Pete Noyes.

“I just love the age, the antique, the old-time structures they have,” said Tambroni.

Another classic building that is one of the best facilities in the nation is Barton Hall. Built in 1915, the home of the indoor track teams was brought up to date in 1987, when it became one of the only indoor track facilities in the country to sport an eight-lane track. Although some of the seating had to be removed to make room for the lanes, the size of Barton makes it a convenient site for large meets.

In addition to the actual competition floor, Barton received a new feature in 1995 when the H. Hunt Bradley Track Center was created. The Bradley Center consists of a weight room for the track athletes’ exclusive use as well as a Hall of Fame and meeting room.

“We have the envy of the league and most places in the nation in the Hunt Bradley Track Center,” proclaimed Duesing.

The centerpiece of the Cornell athletic community, the men’s hockey team, also competes in an old building, but again, one that has received constant attention from the university.

Two years ago, Lynah Rink underwent a renovation that cost Cornell almost $1 million. New boards and seamless glass, as well as a new floor and new refrigeration and plumbing under the surface, were all installed, keeping the playing area of Lynah up to date. In addition, the women’s hockey locker room was also redone a few years ago thanks to alumni donations.

While the University and athletic department together do a solid job keeping the Cornell facilities at a state-of-the-art level, there are always improvements waiting to be made.

Schoellkopf doesn’t have a visiting locker room, for one. The guests of the Red change in Teagle Hall, across the street.

“They’ve always talked about putting locker rooms under the west side stands,” related Tambroni.

Noyes also mentioned that Schoellkopf, while a legend, needs modernization as far as locker rooms, meeting rooms, and coaches’ offices go.

At the brand-new Kane Complex, Duesing noted that the tracksters are lacking in storage space.

“The only thing lacking in the outdoor track is that there is extremely inadequate storage,” he said, but added, “In terms of having a facility for what we need, it is a phenomenal facility.”

Tambroni summed up the importance of having well-maintained homes for the Red athletes.

“We’re an Ivy League school, and it’s important to have quality facilities to play in.”

Archived article by Alex Fineman