Restorations proceed for multiple facilities

By the time the current senior class returns for its third Harvard-Yale game as alumni, the recent graduates will barely recognize the grounds surrounding the hallowed stadium.

The renovation of the Yale Bowl, which is set to begin its second phase in November after the Harvard-Yale game, is just one part of a comprehensive series of restorations of the University’s athletics facilities. The homes of the University’s lacrosse, tennis, ice hockey and soccer teams will see major overhauls, and Payne Whitney Gymnasium will also get a facelift.

The Athletics Department has focused on facilities renovations for more than a decade, but its undertakings must be timed to accommodate athletes’ practices so they must be spread apart over multiple phases.

The projects also require a collaboration with the Office of Development, which is currently promoting the Athletics Department’s needs as part of the Yale Tomorrow fundraising campaign.

“These projects are not being done by athletics and athletics alone,” Director of Athletics Thomas Beckett said. “Athletics is just one part of a master plan that has been acted upon for over a decade.”

Senior Associate Athletics Director Barbara Chesler said she leads the team responsible for planning and overseeing the athletics renovations. The group includes representatives from the University Planner, the facilities office, architects and contractors. The team studies existing facilities and develops master plans that set the budget and design for new projects, she said.

The facade of Payne Whitney Gymnasium is one of the team’s current major projects, Chesler said, and its renovations will include repairs to the bricks, roofs and mortar of both the gym and Ray Tompkins House. This project, which will cost between $50 and 70 million and last anywhere from six to 10 years, will provide the buildings with brand-new exteriors and new windows. The insides of these facilities have been renovated and restored since their openings in the 1920s, Chesler said, but the exterior has been neglected until now.

“Now it’s almost as though we are rebuilding the gym from the outside,” Chesler said.

Out on Derby Avenue, Phase Two of the Yale Bowl renovations will add the Kenney Family Field Center, the Jensen Family Plaza and a new entryway to the Yale Bowl complex in West Haven. Many of these changes will be completed by the start of the 2008 football season. The Field Center will provide athletes with new locker rooms, and reception areas for alumni gatherings. The plaza will serve as a walkway between the Central Avenue and the Kenney Center, where fans can meet and enter the Bowl through a modernized gate. But before these additions even begin, the stadium will sport a brand-new scoreboard early next fall, she said.

“At the end of all this the Yale Bowl will be even more beautiful than it was when it was first built,” Chesler said about the facility that opened in November 1914 for the Harvard-Yale game that year.

Also soon to enter into its second phase of renovations is Reese Stadium, home to the soccer and men’s lacrosse teams. Phase One, which ended this past winter, included the addition of FieldTurf — a modern form of Astroturf — in lieu of grass. The next step will be to add a concessions stand and a ticket booth that will also serve the Yale Bowl.

Closer to central campus, a two-year project to renovate and restore Ingalls Rink will begin at the end of the 2007-’08 hockey season, Chesler said. Designed by Eero Saarinen, the “Whale” is lauded as one of the most unique college athletics facilities. In February, it ranked among the top 150 buildings in America in a national poll.

As a result, Chesler said, any changes made to this “cherished place” must be made with caution. Since the building’s erection in 1958, usage of the facility has expanded beyond just the men’s hockey team to include the women’s team and an array of recreational programs. She said the renovations will include new underground locker rooms for varsity teams, new locker rooms for recreational purposes and a strength/training facility. The restorations will also clean up the concrete, brighten up the rink, add seats and expand the press box.

In the near future, the renovations of the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center will begin on July 1 and last for 10 to 12 months, Chesler said. The project includes adding four new indoor courts, restoring the current courts and lighting, and adding a new lobby area. Chesler said she expects the center to be unmatched in the Ivy League.

“This will arguably be the nicest tennis facility in the Northeast,” women’s varsity tennis coach Danielle Lund said.

Lund, like many coaches whose teams will have the opportunity to practice and compete in brand-new facilities, said she has high expectations for the upcoming renovation. The improved facilities will allow greater flexibility of practice schedules and permit Yale to host large-scale events and attract potential recruits. As of now, with only four indoor courts, matches that involve the standard six rounds of singles are difficult to play when the weather does not permit outside play.

Lund said she has been involved in the Cullman-Heyman project since its early stages, generating ideas about the number of courts and ensuring that alumni are kept abreast of the changes.

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