MATTHEW VANTRYON | Staff Reporter
The construction of the I Lot disrupted the availability of some intramural athletic fields for nearly 2,000 Butler students, and Recreation Director Scott Peden said “chaos may ensue” if the situation—among other issues—is not resolved in a timely manner.
The lot’s construction diminished the amount of space available for intramural activities in the area just across Central Canal.
The construction eliminated one of eight fields that existed last school year.
Peden said the remaining intramural fields are not in prime condition for Butler athletes.
Yet the number of intramural athletes and club sports at Butler continues to climb.
Peden said intramural sports are facilitated by the recreation department, whereas club sports are student organizations that are advised by the recreation department and compete against other universities.
In 2005, there were 951 intramural participants. Last year, that number increased to 3,133—which translates to nearly 2,000 students participating—according to statistics provided by Peden.
Six years ago, there were five active Butler club teams. That figure has since tripled, Peden said.
Approximately 300 intramural athletes use the fields on a daily basis. The five club teams that use the facilities amount to an additional 75 students. The club teams practice 2-3 times per week, in addition to hosting various events.
This means close to 400 students use the fields at least two days a week.
There are also questions regarding the safety of the fields.
Peden said Butler’s varsity athletics programs stopped using several of the fields due to safety concerns, and they transitioned to using the Butler Bowl.
This raises concerns for the intramural and club athletes who do use the intramural fields.
Peden said he was not alerted of the safety issues until very recently.
“The athletic department deemed the fields unsafe for varsity athletes to play on. However, we were using it for recreation purposes,” Peden said. “That was an example of disjointed communication. We weren’t even aware that anyone had deemed the fields unplayable until a year or so ago.
“It was surprising to us that athletics was not using the fields. We weren’t aware that they were intentionally not using that space.”
Carl Heck, associate athletic director, said Butler’s varsity athletic programs formerly used the intramural fields area, but he did not confirm they stopped using the area due to safety concerns.
Since this issue has been raised, it was determined the fields are not level. There is also an issue regarding the irrigation system and size of the sprinkler heads on the fields.
Due to these issues, intramural athletes are not using these fields unless absolutely necessary.
“If irrigation and leveling the playing fields get done, [the construction of the lot] will be great,” Peden said. “If not, we’ll have a problem on our hands.”
Rich Michal, executive director of facilities, played a large role in overseeing the construction of the I Lot.
He said that before the increase in intramural participation, there was a different attitude in creating and locating the intramural fields.
“Historically, we developed haphazardly out there,” Michal said. “We probably haven’t done a good job of master planning that area.”
Michal said there is a different approach this time around, however.
“We were very deliberate to say, ‘Okay, what are all the uses out here?’” Michal said.
Michal said Butler intended to maximize the available space for intramurals and club sports. He added that he and his team met with a number of other administrators and stakeholders in order to get their input.
Those involved in the discussions included Peden, vice president of finance Bruce Arick and head softball coach Scott Hall.
Students, however, said they feel left out of the picture.
“Student input was not included. It was kind of just dropped on us when we came back to school,” said Katherine Memsic, senior president of the club lacrosse team. “Throughout the transition that has been made, we have understood that there are going to be some growing pains. However, the growing pains just kind of keep coming.”
Both Michal and Peden said improving existing facilities to cater to students’ needs is a top priority.
“We all recognize the importance not only of our varsity athletics, but also of our club sports and rec sports,” Michal said. “That’s a major part of our population, and we don’t want to do anything that’s going to take away from that program or the student experience.”
Arick said the parking project was not designed to improve Butler’s athletic facilities.
“I know that we had some folks probably disappointed that we didn’t do hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of improvements to the IM fields in the context of this project, but that wasn’t the project,” Arick said. “Folks have desires, they want to improve this and that. We limited that for this project because it was already a big project, and (improving the intramural fields) was not the intent of this project.”
While it is too early to determine the success of the I Lot project as a whole, Michal said there are already several positives to take away from the project.
Some improvements he noted include a water line that will benefit the athletic facilities and the campus farm, walking paths for pedestrians, an electric line that will provide the potential for lights and security cameras.
It will become an increasing problem when club teams begin to host games and tournaments, Peden said.
Club sports can host up to eight visiting teams on a given weekend.
It is unclear where visitors will be able to park for these events.
Memsic said it is increasingly difficult to schedule practices due to the surplus of intramural field users.
Arick said he also recognizes the need for more intramural space.
“We realized that the space we were taking for the I Lot would disrupt intramural playing,” Arick said. “So we said to the extent that we’re displacing those fields, we’ll make whatever improvements are necessary.”
Arick said that while he has heard of the need for improvements, such as irrigation, it is one priority in the midst of many that the finance department will consider in its annual budget meeting.
“I welcome the list of projects and improvements in a prioritized fashion, and we will put that into the overall capital process for future years as early as 2014 to 2015,” he said.
Arick said he has not heard anything from the recreation department pertaining to the increase of club and intramural athletes, adding that a presentation of data would help the case for improvements to be made sooner rather than later.
“If they provided data to support an explosion of IM sports and club sports and the use of the property and the needs, it certainly would improve the probability of doing more work over there than without it,” Arick said.
Memsic said she is disappointed in the lack of communication between the administration and the students as it relates to the fields.
“I understand that, as a student, we don’t always have the authority to either weigh in on these plans or just have the general knowledge of them,” Memsic said, “and I understand that it is difficult to share all of these plans with students. However, it’s affecting students.
“And I think its unfortunate that students as a whole have not been involved in the planning, because it is supposed to be for our benefit. No one can see the end of the tunnel yet.”
Memsic said she wants to hear from those who are in control moving forward.
“From here on out, listen to the students,” Memsic said. “Just being open and accessible to students when we need to talk and voice our concerns and not keeping students in the dark about this plan (is important).
“There will be growing pains, but (the administration should) help us through the pains rather than telling us, ‘Tough luck.’”