Stadium plans slow to unfold

Stadium plans slow to unfold

By Mary Ann Georgantopoulos and Natasha Kellett

Almost two years since fundraising began for a multi-purpose athletic facility close to campus, plans to build a stadium remain stalled, according to administration officials.

No construction plans have been put into motion to date, and full funding for a stadium remains elusive, despite a renewed demand from student leaders.

Potential sites discussed for the facility are the Columbus Avenue surface parking lot and the nearby Roxbury area.

Northeastern Director of Athletics Dave O’Brien said the location is “still up in the air,” but could be resolved when the university begins work on a new Institutional Master Plan, a document the university is required to submit to the city before undertaking construction projects.

The university is in the final stages of amending its current plan, a process that occurs every 10 years, said Fred McGrail, director of communications and public relations.

The current master plan includes new residence halls for students, among other projects that resulted from negotiations with the community.

With administrators tied up on those issues, stadium talks have been pushed back, leaving the stadium a probability for the unviersity’s next master plan, McGrail said.

“[This process] has taken longer than expected – nearly two years – and resulted from a lot of hard work and numerous meetings involving the university and a Community Task Force,” he said.

After changes to the master plan that will provide for the construction of new residence halls on the Roxbury side of campus occur within what the university hopes is the next several months, McGrail said serious considerations of building a stadium are likely to begin.

Outcry for a timeline

At an open forum meeting with Northeastern President Joseph Aoun Oct. 12, Student Government Association (SGA) President Rogan O’Handley called for a Northeastern student to serve as a representative on the committee responsible for creating the new master plan, and emphasized that a multi-purpose athletic facility should be part of it.

O’Handley said a multi-purpose facility would increase Northeastern’s sense of community and enthusiasm, elements he has sought to bolster in his term.

“I think it would absolutely enhance school spirit,” he said. “In my opinion, traditional school spirit comes from athletic support.”

O’Handley added that the university is trying to increase school spirit through athletics and that a multi-purpose facility would have a “domino effect.”

“It would help our national reputation, and it would help recruit better athletes and students,” he said.

One hindrance to the creation of a multi-purpose athletic facility is that current Northeastern students are paying for a stadium that will not be built during their time at the university. O’Handley said appropriate measures are being taken to ensure that facility be open to alumni and students alike.

“I’ve met with [Jack] Moynihan, [vice president] of alumni relations, and he doesn’t want such a distinction between students and alumni,” O’Handley said. “No matter if you’re currently attending Northeastern or if you graduated over 20 years ago, you’re still part of Northeastern, it’s still a home. The university owes it to students. You raised the money, we owe it to you. We want to see it built soon.”

At this point, O’Handley said he isn’t able to give an accurate estimate of when the stadium will be built, but said he has strong goals to help with the foundation of this process.

“By the end of my term in office, I hope that I will have gotten the ball rolling in this issue,” O’Handley said. “I want some type of solid promise from the university that this facility is going to be built.”

Sophomore English major Liz Anderson knows games are taking place at a field “pretty far away from campus.” But she isn’t sure where that is.

Naomi Pfohl doesn’t generally attend the games either, but admits, “If we had [a stadium] near campus, I would probably go to games.”

“A big stadium for the university would be great,” said Pfohl, a sophomore nursing major. “Every school should have an athletic gathering place.”

Planning process beginnings

Preliminary plans are in place. It would likely seat between 6,000 to 8,000 people, serve the university’s varsity and recreational sports and host student events.

Students gave their endorsement to build a facility in a 2004 referendum that created a special fee to raise money for the stadium and other athletic ventures. Administrators said at the time they would use the student-based fee to contribute one-third, or $10 million, of the project’s projected cost.

The university is in the process of raising its share of the cost for a facility. It is estimated the project will cost about $30 million, of which the university will provide $20 million, O’Brien said.

“We’re still actively out there soliciting donors for the project, and it’s gotten a lot of support,” O’Brien said.

But funding from those donors hasn’t been inked as of yet.

McGrail said funding for the project will come from a number of sources.

“Even the most modest multi-purpose athletic facility will cost millions of dollars,” McGrail said. “That funding will come from a combination of the student fee, university support and private fundraising, which we continue to explore.”

A multi-purpose facility could provide an easier route to sporting events for the Northeastern community. Several varsity athletic teams, such as football, baseball and men and women’s soccer, as well as some club sports, are shuttled off campus for practices. A closer facility would, in theory, alleviate transportation and facility issues.

O’Brien said he was also motivated for the road ahead.

“Certainly in athletics we’re hopeful, we’re excited, we’re anxious and we’re optimistic that the stadium will happen in the future,” O’Brien said.

With the stadium lingering in the background, other areas of the athletics department have grown in recent years.

Since fall 2004, students have been required to pay the mandatory Campus Recreation Fee with tuition, part of which has contributed to funding the multi-purpose athletic facility. The fee is currently set at $46 per semester.

So far, students have raised less than $1 million out of a projected $10 million goal because the fee has also been used to support expanded hours at the Marino Center, provide use of the upper floor recreational facility at Squashbusters, increase the number of club sports, increase intramural activities and permit students to attend athletic events for free, McGrail said.

“We went from 19 club sports several years ago to a total of 40 club sports now,” O’Brien said. “So even though we don’t have the [stadium], we have been fulfilling our obligation to the students in terms of offering a much more expansive recreation program.”

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