February 5, 2003

Town Board Discusses Alumni Fields Location

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The Town of Ithaca Planning Board met last night at the Ithaca Town Hall to consider proposals including Cornell’s plans to construct five new athletic practice fields.

The new fields will replace the current Alumni Fields, one of which will be displaced by a science and technology building. Construction of the fields is scheduled to begin sometime between late March and early May, according to Peter Paradise of the Cornell Office of Planning, Design and Construction. The fields will be located northeast of campus, on Game Farm Road south of Cascadilla Creek.

Plans for the site include two fields with lighting and three unlit fields, a support building in which locker rooms will be housed and a driveway off Game Farm Road leading to a 25- to 30-car parking lot.

This was the third meeting at which the plans were presented to the board. Paradise and Daniel McPherson of the LA Group, the landscape architecture firm planning the fields, provided an overview of the site, explaining that Cornell’s proposal represented only a slight revision of earlier proposals to accommodate the concerns of nearby residents.

Paradise assured the board that Ithacans’ concerns were being taken into consideration by the University. “We definitely have heard the concerns of the public in terms of runoff, lighting and other things,” he said.

During earlier planning phases, some residents had voiced concern that chemicals used in the maintenance of the fields would harm the surrounding agricultural areas. Paradise reassured the board that the University would carefully select the products used in the fields’ upkeep to minimize the potential effects on nearby areas.

Another concern expressed by nearby residents was that the fields would create excessive light pollution. However, according to Paradise, the fields would only be used between the end of the day’s classes and the dining hall closing time, approximately 4:30 to 8 p.m. In addition, artificial lighting would only be required for part of the academic year.

Because of the site’s distance from the rest of campus, the issue of excessive land use was also brought to the board’s attention.

“If you look at the big picture, it does take a step toward increasing sprawl,” said Paul Steen, who lives near the proposed site. “It would have been nice if Cornell could have found a location closer to central facilities.”

Despite these concerns, Steen and others who spoke on the issue expressed appreciation for the University’s willingness to cooperate with the community throughout the planning of the project.

Yesterday’s meeting was intended to be solely an exchange of plans, ideas and concerns between the University and the Planning Board; final permission was not given to proceed with the construction plans.

Despite the plans to begin work on the site this spring, Planning Board chair Fred T. Wilcox III noted that the University’s plans needed a good deal of refinement before final approval would be granted.

“They have a lot of homework to do,” Wilcox said.

Archived article by Michael Holloway