Commentary: New stadium will draw recruits, new fans
For years at the University at Albany, the administration, the coaches and the players of UAlbany's sports teams have complained about the lack of student support for the school's athletic programs.
After almost four years of covering sports for the ASP I fully understand their complaints, highlighted no less recently than this past Saturday's men's basketball game.
The final home game of the season against Rider (to be fair, a non-conference opponent) was attended by a sparse crowd, to be kind.
The light attendance was an unjust farewell to a team that has performed admirably with a 17-13 record, but one that was much like that of many games of UAlbany's teams in amount of empty seats.
Which is why last Wednesday's announcement to construct a new sports complex was so vital.
University brass had been fighting for years to get the funding needed to build a stadium to replace University Field, the laughingstock of fellow schools. And finally, it has it.
The idea of building the stadium, school officials said, was to help put people in those seats at games and drum up interest on what might be one of the most apathetic campuses in the country.
Currently, attending to a UAlbany game is attending a lesson in disinterest.
Though the football team does receive strong crowds considering the dilapidated University Field facilities, one cannot overlook the amount of interest that could be generated if the school had a real stadium to sit in.
The stadium - tentatively scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013, however, school officials hope it could be finished for next season – could become the galvanizing force needed to grow fan support at the school.
Not only could it help the school's image, but it's a recruiting tool. Not just for athletes looking to play here, but let's face it, it would undoubtedly influence people deciding on going here when they take a campus tour.
People, or should I say 17 and 18-year-olds, are impressionable. A sparkling new stadium will play into the psyche of a teenager looking to commit to the school.
No, it is not the $60 million, 25,000-seat stadium originally proposed a couple years back, but it is undoubtedly the start the school needs to propel its football and track programs into the 21st century.
Track program director Roberto Vives has had to coach his teams for years on a track that even the area's middle schools would be embarrassed to use.
The program has been one of the school's most successful, with numerous conference and national championships in recent years, in spite of the subpar facilities.
The program will no longer have to host its home meet, the Great Dane Classic, at New York City's Armory in Harlem. It will finally have the facilities a top Division I program should have.
Football coach Bob Ford, who said he originally campaigned for better facilities when he first started coaching in the early-70s, but gave up some hope for it when 2010, the target date of an overarching plan called "Project 2010" to renovate the facilities never came to fruition.
But now Ford can coach in a football stadium he can be proud of, one that will likely bear his name to honor his 42 years at UAlbany.
And maybe more than a few people will be in the seats to watch.
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