Site of new colleges may temporarily be playing fields

Until the money to build Yale’s new residential colleges is secured, the site, once cleared, may be sodded and converted to playing fields for recreational and intramural sports.

The fields, which would be open to students at all times and also available for community use, would address the lack of on-campus green space noted by students during the planning process for the new colleges, officials said. Local youth and club teams would also be able to rent out the fields, which would not be fenced off, Provost Peter Salovey said.

“Should there be a delay … the idea was, we could create recreational athletic fields there,” Salovey said. “They would be an amenity for students, and they would be attractive green areas.”

Students on the New Colleges Advisory Committee — established to gather input from members of the Yale community while University officials were considering the new residential colleges — recommended more green space and closer intramural playing fields, said Penelope Laurans, vice chair of the committee and special assistant to University President Richard Levin.

Salovey said the fields are still under discussion, since it is not clear when the demolition of the current buildings on the Prospect Triangle site will be completed or how long fundraising for the new colleges will take. In February 2009, administrators said the new colleges, originally planned to open in 2013, would be put on hold for budgetary reasons and would not be completed until 2014 at the earliest.

The grassy area would likely be in constant flux, changing to accommodate the remaining demolition and utility work on the site of the new colleges, added Bruce Alexander, vice president for New Haven and state affairs and campus development.

Yale is not the only American university trying to determine what to do with spaces left vacant by stalled construction ventures. While Yale had yet to break ground on the new colleges when it postponed construction due to the recession, Harvard University has had to suspend work on an ambitious expansion into Allston, a neighboring suburb of Boston, leaving a huge crater and angry locals in its wake.

Yale will not need to seek city approval for the recreational areas, Yale spokesman Thomas Mattia said, as no such approval is required for open grassy space. The process of completing site preparation for the new colleges will take “a couple of years,” he added. Aside from the remaining demolitions, there is still a significant amount of utility work to be done at the site of the new colleges, Yale spokesman Charles Hogen ’70 said.

But Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said the fields would be easy to build and maintain, requiring only that the site be leveled and planted over with grass.

“We love the plan,” Beckett said, speaking on behalf of the Athletics Department. “This open space is so sorely needed in the central campus area.”

If plans for the fields go through, Beckett said, his department will ask students for ideas and requests about how best to use the fields. He said he doubts the spaces would be appropriate for club or varsity athletics, but that they might be suitable for intramurals.

Intramural staff said the fields near central campus would be a boon to students tired of making the trip to the intramural playing fields near the Yale Bowl by bus. Intramural administrator Carlos Pinela said he had not heard of the plan to install recreational fields but that he supports the idea even if the fields would only last for a season or two.

“Of course a site closer to campus would be better,” Pinela said. “But this isn’t a permanent solution.”

There will have to be at least two or three fields near central campus to match the size of the current intramural facilities, Pinela said, adding that he hopes the new residential colleges will include a new fitness center to relieve the crowded Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Beckett added that Yale officials may be able to work with the city of New Haven to identify other parcels of land that could become recreational areas.

The two new colleges, designed by School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65, will share a kitchen and will house students for all four years.


  • concerned

    any area that is open to the community will only bring in trouble. local citizens will start using, and stay there not allowing Yale students the privilege to use there own area, the area MUST be fenced in also to prevent local kids from riding there ATV on the field and destroying it. like other local parks have been.

  • greenspace

    Green space there would be an excellent breather from the buildings and traffic, especially after the squeeze between Becton and the cemetery. I dread the day when that part of Prospect is open to traffic again. Already people are driving in to test whether the bridge is open!

  • James T. Madison

    “The fields, which would be … available for community use.”

    So when the time come for Yale to build the colleges the University will be in the position of depriving the community of a park and a place for local children play? Yale would be creating its own potential future public relations and political disaster. Columbia and Morningside Heights, anyone? Does Berkeley and People’s Park ring a bell?

    New Haven and Yale have achieved a beautiful, mutually profitable relationship. Failure to think realistically about the future is the greatest risk to that relationship. And let’s not forget about the happy, frisbee-flipping defenders such green and open spaces would find for themselves within the University community in no time at all.

    If Yale is serious about being free to build the new colleges, this site should be surrounded by a reasonably attreactive, but not too attractive, temporary fence and rented to some commercial operation that can use the space for a quiet storage yard of some sort. Perhaps an architectural salvage company or the like, if one can be found. In other words: An interim use that neither offends the community nor creates the likelihood of community resistance when the use is shifted to construction.

    Think, people, think. And not about parks and playing fields.

    And while they’re at it, I hope somebody in the administration has thought to make sure that New Haven’s grant to the University of the portion of the site now occupied by public streets is not contingent on Yale building those colleges by a certain time or otherwise.

    Sheesh. What a dreadful idea.

  • Robert Schneider

    Great idea!!! Now the administration needs to go all the way and cancel the new colleges. Yale College will be better off without them.

  • This would be beyond awesome if done. I hate taking the bus to the athletic complex.

  • student

    Why not use Scantlebury Park for sports? It’s about a block from the swing dorm. I’ve never understood why students won’t walk a block.

  • IM

    put in a field turf field!

  • @James T. Madison

    dude, look at google maps. the site of the new colleges is about 200 feet from Scantlebury Playground — which is a New Haven park and play field. it’s not like yale is giving the community something they don’t already have.

  • James T. Madison


    As the other side screams that Yale is depriving community children of an established playing field and park, please feel free to shout back your argument that Scantlebury Playground is enough of a park and play field for the likes of them already. Won’t that be nice. Although you might want to consider that you wouldn’t have had to put yourself out so much if somebody in the administration had thought about the matter for ten minutes.

    While you’re at it, take a look at just how little of the then mostly unused Morningside Park that Columbia gym would have occupied when the riots broke out. And that gym would have contained a gym for the Columbia community on the upper level and a gym for local residents on the lower level, the side facing Harlem. Here’s a website to help you out:

    The gym Columbia eventually did build elsewhere is not open to local residents.

    And you might want to check out how close People Park is to other available green space in Berkeley, which does not exactly lack for parkland close by, including Underhill Field, Golden Bear Recreation Center, Willard Park and (a slighly longer walk) the gigantic Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve. It’s also worth noting that the uproar in Berkeley followed Berkeley Vice Chancellor Earl Cheit release of plans for a sports field to be built on the site of People’s Park. Somehow, none of that made any difference.

  • Veritas

    Make them IM fields. Put a big fence around them. Make them card access only. Yalies will complain when they turn the fields into colleges because we don’t want the new colleges. No one else would have ever had the park in the first place to complain about losing it. Plus, it’d be a nice to have a safe outdoor area to relax at night outside the college gates.

  • Donnie

    Yale only card access for the fields? Sure! Conversely let’s ban Yalies from the Green!

    Remember who’s town you’re in, you spoiled little brats. Yale is not something apart from New Haven, nor are you all somehow better or different or more entitled than the rest of the city. With that sort of attitude, it’s no wonder you risk getting robbed if you wander more than a few blocks away from campus.

  • to Donnie #11

    We’re talking about private land, Donnie. Opening it to public enjoyment is something that I support, but you and I have no more access rights to Yale’s private yard than the rest of the world has to yours.

    If you find that Yale students, staff and professors are spoiled brats, this probably doesn’t affect you anyway since you would probably not want to hang out with them on these green fields.

  • Rudy ’73

    Allowing entrenched expectations is a legitimate concern, but this could be minimized if use of the fields were restricted to organized community sports leagues. Such league officials could be given advance notice when the fields are to become unavailable because of impending construction.