Dust Bowl

The recent closing of one on-campus field and the limitation of another have caused adverse playing conditions for the Men’s and Women’s Soccer and Rugby teams.

After the Athletic Department was notified by school administration that the intramural/rugby field behind Lenape and Esopus Halls was “deemed unsafe” to play on, the field was closed and will not reopen until at least fall 2013, Joe Deck, assistant director of wellness and recreation for Intramurals and Club Sports, said.

“The field has never been given enough time to rehabilitate,” Deck said. “The club plays on it from August to November and from March to May, which is prime time for growing grass. One day of practice and the fields are destroyed. It’s nothing the players could have done because that’s the nature of the sport.”

Although Alumni Field, where the Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams play, hasn’t been shut down completely, usage has been limited to SUNYAC home games by administration in an effort to “preserve the field for competition,” Deck said.

Both the Men’s and Women’s Soccer and Rugby teams have been affected by the loss or limitation of their field. Having to practice on the turf field and use Alumni Field for games is a hindrance for the soccer team because the two spaces provide for different playing experiences.

Men’s Soccer Head Coach Gene Ventriglia said practicing on the turf field, which is smaller, forces the team to play a style that is not ideal.

“We want to play wider, that’s our strategy,” Ventriglia said.

The closing of Alumni Field for practice has also been an inconvenience for the team. Second-year outside midfielder Brian Spina said that since practice times and locations have had to be altered, players have missed practice because of scheduling conflicts, which hurts the team.

For the Men’s and Women’s Rugby teams, the inconvenience is even greater. Their fields have been closed for an indefinite period of time, which forces them to play and practice outside of New Paltz.

Fourth-year Co-Captain Dean Hottum said the team has had to drive to Modena to practice, which wastes time and is a financial burden. Having to walk into an away game as a host means the team loses their home field advantage, which entails the support of their fans and the familiarity of the field.

The biggest safety concern, however, is practicing without a scrum sled, which assists players during practices.

“It’s a huge safety issue because without the sled, players are at risk of injuring their necks and backs,” Hottum said. “The sled can’t be transported ourselves so we’d have to find a field that’s already equipped with one. The sled takes a bunch of fully-developed college men to move, let alone transport from one location to the other.”

In the meantime, the Men’s Rugby team is trying to find a field in New Paltz where they can both play and practice. Deck said the team can request funds from Student Association to reimburse them for the inconveniences.

Associate Athletic Director Brian Williams and Baseball Head Coach Matt Griffiths, who are also in charge of outdoor facility maintenance, are assessing the situation and looking into completely renovating the fields, which would include providing them with new drainage systems.

“We want these teams to practice, but we want them to do it safely,” Deck said. “That’s the main thing: safety. We know this field is unsafe and to allow them to play and practice on a field that the campus deems unsafe would be doing a disservice to the students.”

Suzy Berkowitz