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.