Clubs seek space shortage solutions

By: Tatum Hunter ~Editor-in-Chief~

Student groups are having trouble reserving the spaces they need at the times they want. This week, Recreational Sports and the Office of Student Affairs addressed student concerns about space shortages.

The Newswire reported on Aug. 26 that certain Club Sports teams that previously received up to three practices per week at the Xavier University Soccer Complex were allotted one practice time per week this semester. These changes led to student concerns about the fairness of the soccer field schedule Recreational Sports released, since various outside rental groups were competing with Club Sports for field time.

Assistant director of Recreational Sports Glenn Arnold responded that there has been no change in prioritization and that Recreational Sports cares about the needs of club teams. Limited field space, combined with the sheer number of club teams wanting to practice during the evening hours, makes allocation difficult, Arnold said.

Performance groups also have struggled to reserve space. The Newswire reported on Sept. 9 that Xavier Singers will forego its traditional fall semester show in the Gallagher Student Center Theater due to changes in the club’s leadership structure and difficulty securing the theater space.

In spite of continued efforts to provide flexible spaces for student use, space needs change from year to year, said associate provost Dave Johnson. With almost 170 clubs and organizations on campus, keeping track of these evolving needs can be difficult.

“One of our responsibilities is to assess the tension and ensure that we’re maximizing those resources for students,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a real spike in demand for outdoor resources. To assume that spike will maintain itself over a couple of years… we want to wait and see.”

As club teams become increasingly competitive, the demand for practice time goes up, Johnson said. Furthermore, most teams want the same evening time slots. So even though the number of fields and teams has remained constant, increased demand has led to less availability.

Aside from allotting field time to Club Sports, university athletics and intramural teams, Recreational Sports also rents the varsity field to outside groups for $75 an hour or $300 a game. Renters include local high schools like Purcell Marian, small colleges and universities and youth soccer clubs.

“It’s invaluable to (the rental groups). And, at the same time, it offers some rental revenue for us,” Johnson said. “We try to support them in a way that doesn’t conflict with student needs, but sometimes it does compete with student groups.”

The rentals generate about $25,000 a year in revenue.

“The money goes back to the university and contributes to the overall operations of the university, including the functioning of recreational sports department and programs,” said assistant director of Recreational Sports James Alexander.

Women’s Club Soccer president Rose Fantozzi called for more available alternatives to the much-desired varsity field.

“We understand the university’s need to make money,” Fantozzi said. “If the turf isn’t going to be available for these nine club sports to practice, there needs to be alternative options provided by the university to supports students who are members of these club sports.”

In recent years, the university has taken some steps to provide additional recreational spaces to students, such as the basketball and volleyball courts by Buenger Hall, mixed-use spaces in the new Alter Hall, the revamped Xavier Yard and the Gallagher Amphitheater. More expansions are on the horizon. Preliminary planning has begun for a new student health and recreation center. A group of students, staff and faculty are developing a funding model, which will be evaluated by university leadership and the board of trustees. The construction of the center would begin in fall 2019 and last about a year and half, if donors come through with the funding.

“The new rec center will be a game changer,” Johnson said.

Plans for the recreation center come after Xavier launched a $25 million renovation of Cintas Center in June. The overhaul will include a new strength and conditioning facility for student athletes.

“I know that (both Cintas and the new student recreation center) are priorities,” Johnson said. “It’s very much a priority for the university to update O’Connor (Sports Center). And we’ve transitioned from hope to planning.”

The Gallagher Student Center also will be renovated later this year, after a delay.

Moving forward, Student Affairs will look for ways to increase the utility of existing outdoor space. One possibility is adding lights to Sherman Field or other local parks. However, past attempts to work with the city and the Park Board on this measure have been unsuccessful, Johnson said. Another option is to track the data for student utilization rates of different types of campus spaces in order to make more efficient allocations.

“I would really encourage groups to carry on in their efforts to work with staff, whether that be with Rec Sports or the Office of Student Involvement,” Johnson said. “Have some creative conversations about what the possibilities are and what options we can take advantage of to help get the space our groups need to thrive.”

The Office of Student Affairs intends to support groups like Club Sports and work with them to find solutions, Johnson said.

“I appreciate Club Sports’ concerns in particular, and I appreciate clubs’ and organizations’ concerns in general as it relates to space, and I know that some of those pressure points create complications for them. Let’s keep talking and thinking creatively,” he said.