As Cornell prepares to renovate and expand the North Campus housing area, members of Cornell’s club sports expressed concern that the project’s impending destruction of the Appel Fields — an outdoor sports space — will put the future of club sports in jeopardy.
First unveiled in 2017, the housing project plans to add approximately 2,000 beds and a dining facility on North Campus by the fall of 2022 — building on the land besides the Appel Commons and Mews Hall, where the Appel Fields currently sit.
According to Cornell’s website, the expansion is an attempt to “address a deficit of on-campus housing” and accommodate “anticipated increases in undergraduate enrollment.” However, some students feel that the plan did not take into consideration the fact that many teams will soon lose its practice space.
This fall semester would be the last season that the Appel Fields could be used before it’s closed for construction, wrote Brigitta Putnam, director of aquatics and university programs in an August email sent on to 14 club sports teams that use the Appel Fields for tryouts and practice.
In the same email, which was acquired by The Sun, Putnam said she had “no idea” where displaced teams would be able to play in the spring.
The club sports teams anticipated that the Appel Fields would be available until mid-November, according to Aaron Berman ’19, co-captain of the Shake, a men’s developmental frisbee team. However, on Oct. 22, Putnam emailed the teams again with the news that the fields would be closed immediately, leaving teams to scramble to find alternative sites.
Jessup Fields, another sports space located on the northwest side of North Campus near the Robert Purcell Community Center, are unavailable because of an ordinance with the Village of Cayuga heights, which limits its access to only intramural sport teams, according to Putman.
Without Jessup Fields as an option, the club teams looked to Cornell’s other on-campus athletic spaces, such as the varsity fields, but they are often not allowed to access certain facilities.
The Buds, another men’s ultimate frisbee team, said they tried to reserve the turf facilities on campus but were told club sports aren’t allowed to use them with lights because the lights are reserved for varsity sports.
“Not being able to use the lights pretty much means we can’t use the fields,” said Andrew Gavin ’19, co-captain of the Buds. “Since the only time the fields are free would be after dark.”
Teams are also frustrated by a lack of centralization and communication from the Cornell administration, according to Gavin.
Almost all athletic facilities on Cornell’s campus are managed by different people, making it difficult for teams to understand what spaces are available. Teams trying to reserve a space are often referred multiple times to different people, without success.
Some of the spaces that are available to be used by club sports, such as Ramin Room, an indoor space in Bartels Hall, were already filled by August, before teams knew Appel would be closed.
“There’s no centralized location for us to go to and say ‘hey, we’re looking for field space — what is available?’” Gavin said.
The difficulty of securing on-campus locations led most teams to look for off-campus field spaces, which often requires teams to allocate extra money from their budget in order to reserve private spaces.
However, the funding teams received from Cornell did not increase after they were notified of the Appel Fields closing — nor could the budget be changed because they were submitted before teams were notified about the closing of the fields.
“We’ve been alternating weeks [for practice] … to make [the money] last until our games,” said Hannah Sosenko ’19, president of women’s club softball. “It’s hard to have a team environment when you’re not practicing that much and you’re not around each other consistently.”
The women’s frisbee teams began to hold practices at a field off-campus, but because it was in a residential area, the field wasn’t always available. The change decreased player turnout at practices, according to Nancy Jiang ’19, co-captain of the Thorny Roses, one of the women’s frisbee teams.
Many clubs teams also expressed concern about tryouts in the fall, which had always been held on the Appel fields in previous years — an especially convenient location for recruiting freshmen. Now, the uncertainty surrounding the location of next year’s tryouts puts many teams in a tough position, as the future of their programs may be endangered if recruitment is made more difficult.
Shuttling the nearly 100 potential recruits back and forth to an off-campus field would be extremely challenging and could decrease the number of students trying out, said Alex Jacobs ’20, president of Mundial, one of Cornell’s men’s club soccer teams.
“If I had to get in a car with a bunch of strangers, I probably wouldn’t have tried out,” Sami Smalling ’20, co-captain of the Wild Roses, told The Sun.
Ryan Lombardi, vice president of campus and student life, told The Sun in an email that a new artificial turf field would eventually be built to replace the Appel Fields. However, the North Campus construction won’t be completed until 2022, potentially leaving teams without a replacement for the next three years.
Furthermore, the current space at Appel consists of three separate fields, while the expansion project will create only one field.
“I don’t see how five to six club teams are supposed to share one turf field,” said Spencer DeRoos ’19, Buds co-captain. “Especially when many of them need to practice two to three times a week to be competitive.”
Lombardi did not specify if club teams would gain access to other campus field sites in place of Appel, or if teams would be compensated for the cost of renting off-campus field space.
“[The administration] ha[s] been and will continue to explore Cornell’s existing fields and community resources to serve as alternative field space,” Lombardi wrote in the email.
No member from the administration has reached out to any of the teams that were interviewed for this story, the team leaders told The Sun.
In the application submitted by Cornell to the City of Ithaca for the North Campus Housing project, Cornell claims that the reduction of the fields “will not have a major impact on Cornell students despite the increase in student residents in the vicinity.”
Jacobs said the statement is “misleading,” and DeRoos said the statement “completely ignores the students who use the fields often for organized tryouts and practices.”
The team leaders emphasized the importance of having club sports as an “outlet” for students who are often overwhelmed with school.
“The fact that Cornell isn’t giving us resources is really putting up barriers to allowing everybody to participate in [club sports],” Jiang told The Sun.
“It’s good that there’s more housing because that’s also not a good situation at Cornell,” Jacobs said. “But by solving one problem, you’re creating another.”