Despite rumors earlier this semester that the Yale Bowl would see significant upgrades this football offseason, the 101-year-old facility will remain unchanged for the time being.
In August, football head coach Tony Reno told the Hartford Courant that a renovation was being planned to add artificial turf and a 65-foot-high protective bubble roof to the Bowl, a temporary structure that would be installed in the winter months to allow multiple Yale teams to practice indoors. But four months later, this plan is no longer under consideration, according to Associate Athletics Director and Sports Publicity Director Steve Conn. The administration continues to explore the possibility of utilizing additional indoor training facilities elsewhere, Conn said.
“There are no renovations, no plans to change anything in the Bowl other than maintenance projects, which [the administration was] doing during the season, finishing seats and concrete.” Conn said. “We are looking for functional indoor recreational space, because teams practice outside of their competitive seasons and need venues to do that.”
Director of Athletics Tom Beckett confirmed that the Yale Bowl’s field will remain grass, but did not comment on the reason that the project is no longer being discussed.
University administrators are re-evaluating the project and considering all possible options, Director of Athletics Development Alison Cole ’99 said. Cole declined to comment further.
Conn added that one possibility is adding a bubble roof to an already existing artificial turf field, such as Reese Stadium, Frank Field or Johnson Field. Nine athletes interviewed all said such an addition would significantly benefit their teams.
“The administration mentioned [the potential indoor facility addition] to me this year, but this is a potential project that has come up as a subject for the last five or six years,” women’s soccer head coach Rudy Meredith said. “It has definitely been on the list of something that would be an interest for all the coaches.”
Beckett said there is a continuous effort within the administration to determine the best solution to create an indoor practice facility for Yale’s teams. He recognized that the harsh conditions of New England winters make such a facility “necessary” because it is often impossible for students to practice outdoors.
Athletics projects at Yale are not funded by the University but instead by donors, Beckett said, which has been the policy for many years.
Meredith recognized that for a project such as this one, funding could come from multiple alumni given that the entire athletic department would benefit from additional indoor facilities, including club and intramural sports.
“The benefits of an indoor turf facility would be endless to our team,” women’s soccer forward Karina Kovalcik ’17 said. “We would be able to get more touches on the ball; we wouldn’t have to spend an hour a week on just commuting; we could sleep more and it wouldn’t be as hard on our bodies as playing on the fifth-floor gym wooden floors. We would have more space to work, and we could scrimmage full field.”
Softball player Francesca Casalino ’18 also drew attention to the benefits of an indoor turf facility, adding that the facility would bring Yale’s indoor playing areas up to par with those of other Ivy League institutions, such as Harvard and Penn.
Harvard Stadium was outfitted with a bubble roof in 2007 — just a year after upgrading to artificial turf — and since then all teams that play outdoors have had access to the indoor turf field between November and the spring, according to Harvard’s website. In 2011, Penn added a bubble roof to a school-owned turf field other than its football field.
All nine athletes interviewed noted that the current indoor facility situation presents challenges for them during their offseason.
The Yale men’s lacrosse team, for example, often sees delayed starts to its season preparation because its practice and game field, Reese Stadium is blocked from sunlight by Coxe Cage and can freeze when there is too much snow, attack and midfielder Michael Bonacci ’16 said.
The women’s lacrosse team sees similar problems. According to defender Flannery Carney ’16, the team practices outside at Reese during the late winter unless there is a snowstorm or the weather is below 10 degrees. She said that since her time at Yale, she has strained or pulled three different muscles due to the freezing temperatures at which they practice.
“I think having indoor facilities would be a huge benefit,” Bonacci said. “We would be able to have winter practices that focus on lacrosse and not on how cold we are.”
Teams do utilize Coxe Cage and facilities inside Payne Whitney Gymnasium during the winter, but they often need to compete for time inside these training spaces, multiple players said.
Priority for these facilities goes to teams that are in their competitive season over teams in their offseason, Casalino said. She added that in past years, the softball team has held morning workouts at Coxe Cage from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. because the Yale track and field team had priority in the afternoon.
“When the weather gets bad everyone wants to go inside, and we have limited space for it,” Meredith said. “It is a struggle getting in practice time when we have limited space, so it is definitely a concern for the coaches.”
He added that the indoor facilities currently available are not optimal for the team. If the team wants to practice indoors, the only option is scrimmaging on the fifth-floor Payne Whitney Gymnasium wooden floors, Meredith said, which does not simulate a real game experience. The goalkeeper, for example, cannot dive because of the wood, making the team unable to practice with the goalkeeper during the winter.
To make up for the lack of facilities, many teams commute during the week to practice at other locations. The football, field hockey, women’s soccer and softball teams, for example, travel to indoor facilities in nearby towns for several days in the week.
The baseball team, meanwhile, has indoor batting cages within its stadium, Yale Field. Position player Harrison White ’17 said that the team also clears off the football practice field, which is adjacent to Yale Field and has artificial turf, to practice outside when there is snow on the ground.
“We are lucky enough to have two batting cages inside,” White said.
Although these facilities are used only by the baseball team, this year the softball team will have batting cages of its own due to a Yale fundraising competition that it recently won.
Each year, Yale Athletics gives roughly $12,000 of spending money to the team that raises the most money from alumni, position player Sydney Ginsberg ’18 said. The softball team is using this money — in addition to other funds that Beckett approved for the softball team, according to catcher Camille Weisenbach ’17 — to build two new batting cages on the fifth floor of Payne Whitney.
“The new batting cages are going to be extremely beneficial to us,” Ginsberg said. “They will provide us with access to a hitting facility right here on campus so we will no longer need to rely on the buses for transportation to a cage. The new cages will make our practice schedule much more flexible as a result.”
Connecticut had approximately 60 inches of snowfall during the winter of 2014–15.