Equestrian, polo teams lobby for facilities upgrade

The Yale polo and equestrian teams have begun a large-scale letter-writing campaign to gain support for the renovation of Yale’s Equestrian and Polo Center.

The team began the proposal process to upgrade the center, which is located between the field hockey and men’s lacrosse fields, two years ago when equestrian team president Leah Sartorius ’02 and the team drafted “The Proposal for the Reconstruction and Support of the Yale Polo and Equestrian Center.” The proposal did not receive a strong response from the University. As a result, Sartorius and her teammates have recently revamped the process with plans to mail letters to the administration, Yale President Richard Levin, and up to 600 related parties.

The current facility was constructed in 1916 as an ROTC training facility and armory. The center, which houses close to 60 horses, has many damaged and unsuitably small stalls and not enough outdoor space for the horses to exercise.

“After reviewing the engineering report solicited by the University, it seems clear to me that the renovation is absolutely necessary,” captain Margot Sanger-Katz ’02 said.

Sanger also commented that the report makes three sets of recommendations to the University. The first set, which is called the “priority list,” consists of $1.35 million in work, which was necessary to bring the building up to fire, plumbing, electrical and handicapped codes. The first set also proposes the repair of damaged exterior walls and a modernization of the sewage system.

Full-scale renovation of the barn would cost more than $5 million.

“Anyone who sees the building, regardless of their acquaintance with horses, can see that it is in dire need of reconstruction,” Katz-Sanger said. “The conditions that the horses live in are simply unacceptable.”

With the University having recently committed to a renovation of the Yale Bowl, funding for the renovation, especially one as expensive as the Equestrian and Polo Center, will be difficult to come by.

“The Athletics Department has indicated to us that they will likely attempt to divert equestrian renovation donations to other uses,” Sanger-Katz said. “It seems clear to us that this structure is not their first priority.”

Due to its dilapidated state, the team left the center in 1998 and has since moved to another practice facility. Although the team has had strong showings in regional competition in the past three years, many members have quit the squad due to the high cost and time commitment required as a result of practicing at an outside facility. Currently it costs $35 per rider per week to practice.

Sanger-Katz also stated that the squad’s difficulty in achieving varsity status has been a result of the poor state of the center.

“With a renovated barn, a varsity program could affordably flourish,” Sanger-Katz said. “But without a varsity program, this project is always going to take the backseat to funding requests from varsity sports.”

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