Facilities: Investment in the future
Alfred University’s intercollegiate athletic offerings have grown considerably in the last 40 years. Several men’s teams have been added and passage of federal Title IX legislation in 1972 spurred the growth of women’s teams. Today, AU offers 23 men’s, women’s and co-educational intercollegiate teams, their rosters made up of nearly 500 student-athletes.
“We have simply outgrown our current athletic space, which was built in 1971 at a time when we had six intercollegiate sports,” notes Kathy Woughter, AU Vice President of Student Affairs. “As Title IX has encouraged girls and women’s sports, and as our own offerings have increased, we want to support this growing need.”
Jim Moretti ’72, athletic director, says improved facilities will help coaches attract student-athletes to Alfred University and ultimately lead to increased success among its teams.
“When competing for recruits, facilities play a tremendous role. Improving our facilities will help us attract more quality student athletes and aid in the success of our intercollegiate sports programs. Merrill Field, which is used by five of our teams, is an example of an endeavor that will benefit so many of our athletes,” Moretti says.
Moretti points to the proposed health and wellness annex to the McLane Center as something that will further benefit the University’s intercollegiate athletic program. With an indoor track, the center will provide much-needed practice and training space for runners competing on the men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams.
“Right now, there is no good place, other than Davis gym, for our track teams to work out,” Moretti says. “The (health and wellness annex) will assist runners greatly with their training and preparations.”
Most in need of improved facilities is the women’s softball team. Founded in 1992, the team has gone from perennial doormat in the Empire 8 Conference standings to a regional power.
The 2010 team won a share of the Empire 8 regular season championship and the program’s first-ever berth in the NCAA Division III championships. Remarkably, the Saxons have succeeded without the benefit of an on-campus field, splitting time over the years at fields in Hornell and Wellsville and at neighboring Alfred State. Despite the absence of an on-campus field, AU has expanded from a regional to national recruiting base, with rosters now numbering more than 20.
Says Woughter: “I am particularly excited about the proposed addition of a softball stadium, which recognizes one of our premier sports teams at Alfred and will create a fantastic venue for spectators to cheer on our Saxon softball players.”
More and more students are competing not only in intercollegiate sports, but also on intramural and club teams that require playing space on campus. With many of the current intercollegiate teams sharing space — in the McLane Center and on Merrill Field and Tucker Field — it is becoming increasingly difficult for members of non-intercollegiate teams to play and practice.
“Intramurals in particular is an area that is growing; we would like to have much more opportunity for our non-intercollegiate athletes to play, but we’re limited by our available space,” Woughter says. “Overall, this project will have a tremendous positive impact on student life.”
The proposed new facilities — namely the renovated Merrill Field and planned new softball field — will benefit the teams by providing attractive venues for fans to watch and support them.
“We want to strive to improve not only the facilities used by our student athletes but those that help make for a great fan experience,” Moretti says. “We feel we’ve done that with the improvements to Merrill Field. The addition of an on-campus softball field will be invaluable in terms of recruitment, and it will also provide fans with a top-notch, enjoyable venue for watching the games.”
Pat Codispoti, former physical education professor, women’s soccer and softball coach and admissions counselor, knows well the importance of upgrading the University’s athletic facilities.
Improved facilities will help the University attract student-athletes and boost the University’s intercollegiate athletic program, Codispoti says.
“Even though we pride ourselves on academics, high school seniors today have so many choices,” said Codispoti, who retired from coaching in 2001 before serving as an admissions counselor. “You have to have what they want, and that includes not only successful teams and a competitive athletic program, but high quality facilities as well.”
Codispoti says the project will impact the entire University and Alfred communities, not just the Saxon athletic program.
“I think this is phenomenal,” she said. “This will be a huge facelift to the whole athletic program that’s been needed for so long,” she said. “We need to improve (the University’s) appearance. This (athletic complex) is the first thing you see. It will enhance the entire campus.”