At the turn of the century, Cornell’s administration was planning a new engineering center on campus with study spaces, classrooms and dining accommodations. The building, which would eventually become Duffield Hall, was considered for a lot of different campus locations. As with most new campus buildings, there was strong support to site the building on Hoy Field.
Cornell’s baseball diamond since 1922, Hoy Field is nestled between Hoy Parking Garage, Upson Hall and Gates Hall, the latter of which did not exist at the time of the Duffield decision. Yet, the field’s status as a large, seasonally-used green space in a prime section of campus means it is often near the top of the list as a potential site for a new building.
If Hoy Field were ever uprooted in favor of a campus addition, the University would need to construct a new field for its varsity baseball team. The only option would be to build a field on the outskirts of campus, likely by the softball field, tennis center and equestrian building adjacent to East Hill Plaza. This would decrease the already limited student attendance at baseball games.
Cornell baseball alumni support keeping the field at its current site and would likely provide donations if Hoy Field’s future were to be jeopardized. With this alumni pressure, Cornell would decide to keep Hoy Field in its current location and site the new project elsewhere. This is what happened in the Duffield situation in the 2000s, a proposed ILR addition in 1947, a possible project in 1985 and likely a few more times throughout the field’s 96-year history.
This unstable situation of a seasonally-used baseball field in the center of campus has persisted for decades. Instead of laying out a long-term plan, the University often prefers to suggest new projects for the site, attract donations and then place them elsewhere.
However, developments in the last 10 years have made the problem worse. First, the University built Gates Hall, basically abutting the stadium’s right-field line. Surely a man of Bill Gates’ intellect would know better than to fund a building in prime foul ball territory. In the Cornell baseball games I have attended, I have seen players hit the ball off Gates Hall more than a few times. The construction of Gates so close to the field hints that Cornell may build a future engineering building in Hoy Field’s space. It would have the added benefit of being next to Gates and across the street from Duffield and Upson.
On the other hand, if Gates Hall’s construction is an indicator that Hoy Field may soon be relocated, Cornell’s commitment to the field gives the other impression. In 2007, Cornell renovated the field, converting the grass surface to AstroTurf and constructing a press box. Furthermore, before the 2017 spring season, Cornell Athletics undertook an extensive project to improve the field. This recent project, coming after Gates Hall’s construction, gives the impression that Cornell is committing to baseball on Hoy Field for the foreseeable future.
Baseball is one of the less popular sports at Cornell, and most undergraduates and Ithaca residents do not have much attachment to Hoy Field. Yet, baseball alumni will financially support keeping Hoy Field in its current prime location by the engineering quad. Cornell is stuck in a quandary with two long-term options: either keep historic Hoy Field in its location, even though it is seasonally used, or locate new academic buildings there, with the added expense of constructing a new Division I baseball field by East Hill Plaza.
Cornell should publicly commit to one plan or the other, and make decisions accordingly. Making contrasting decisions like locating Gates Hall nearby while simultaneously renovating Hoy Field continues to leave the team, the public and Cornell alumni confused about the site’s future. There are pros and cons to both options, but the status quo should not be a choice.