Trees Complex, Cost Center renovations underway

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Trees Complex, Cost Center renovations underway

The Cost Center, which will be undergoing renovations, may no longer be home to sports like Pitt Club Football | Anna Bongardino, Staff Photographer

The Cost Center, which will be undergoing renovations, may no longer be home to sports like Pitt Club Football | Anna Bongardino, Staff Photographer

The Cost Center, which will be undergoing renovations, may no longer be home to sports like Pitt Club Football | Anna Bongardino, Staff Photographer

The Cost Center, which will be undergoing renovations, may no longer be home to sports like Pitt Club Football | Anna Bongardino, Staff Photographer

By Emily Baranik / Staff Writer

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With more than $13 million in approved funding, the Trees Field Complex is getting a makeover with a new sports dome facility set to be finished by February.

The Property and Facilities Committee of the University of Pittsburgh’s Board of Trustees approved a $13.2 million sports dome behind Trees Complex in June to accommodate the increased interest in and diversity of sporting clubs. Construction for the dome began in August.

While the renovations are still underway, several intramural and club sports teams said they have experienced irregular or inconvenient practice schedules since the semester began. In addition, the Department of Campus Recreation — which organizes club sports, intramural sports and group exercise classes — is not offering intramural football this semester.

As plans for the dome show, the complete facility will be large enough for a regulation football field indoors that can be split into three smaller fields by curtain dividers, so the inconvenience is temporary. There will also be three outdoor fields surrounding the dome that will be part of the complex. Both the indoor and outdoor fields will be made of artificial turf, and the indoor field will have controlled temperature that will allow for year-round use.

Marilyn Ross, director of the Department of Campus Recreation, said Pitt wants to have the dome completed for the spring semester because it is the most active time for club and intramural sports. According to Ross, the base has been laid for the dome and the ground is now being fixed for the turf inside the dome. She also said it is important to the project that this winter is mild.

Ross said the University wanted to have the dome finished for next semester so that the spring sports will be unaffected.

“[Building the dome] is kind of contingent on the weather, which is beyond our control,” Ross said.

Pitt is also planning to undergo renovations at the Cost Center on upper campus in May. Shawn Ahearn, the director of communications for Pitt Student Affairs, said in an email that the construction of the dome and the renovations of the Cost Center are two different yet related projects, as both are intended to improve the athletic facilities on Pitt’s campus.

According to Ross, renovations are being held off until after the school year, as the track teams use the Cost Center for practices. The $5.3 million renovations include basic maintenance, such as new heating, air conditioning and painting. The Board of Trustees approved the funding in March, and Pitt also plans to put new fields in the Cost Center to be ready for August of 2017.

“It just is really, really old, and it needs a facelift,” Ross said.

The dome is being built on the outdoor fields of the Trees Complex, which prevented intramural football from playing their season this semester. The fields are entirely torn up, according to Ross, and the team was unable to use them.

“[The intramural football team is] kind of sad that they can’t play, but when they see [the new field], it’ll be great. It’s just a minor inconvenience,” Ross said.

Bill Wallace, the intramural sports coordinator, said some teams — such as intramural soccer and several club sports teams — have been using the lawn outside the Baierl Recreation Center in the Petersen Events Center for practice space while the renovations are underway.

“We have to be patient and wait,” Wallace said.

Ross also said Pitt is trying to figure out a way for the intramural football team to still play some games this year. Plans are uncertain as of now, but Ross said they have about six to eight weeks they can work with. Normally, the season starts in October and runs for about six weeks.

“We’ll probably modify the schedule a little bit, so they can have some football,” Ross said.

Andrew Earle, a junior economics major and president of club soccer, said that finding practice space is difficult right now because the fields of the Trees Complex are torn up from construction. All the club and intramural teams are fighting over practice space in the Cost Center until the dome is completed.

“This is the semester where we’re sort of hurting for field space and time,” Earle said.

According to Earle, the tight schedule forces them to only practice Mondays and Fridays. This is inconvenient because they have games on the weekends, so this usually accounts for four straight days of soccer, then nothing during the week.

Matt Mutone, a sophomore exercise science major and previous member of the intramural football team, joined the club football team once he heard of the intramural team’s season cancellation. Mutone said that he considers the renovations to campus facilities an inconvenience because the team can only get field time late at night.

Though the team practices at the Cost Center three to four times a week, their practices sometimes last until as late as 12:30 am.

Mark Chajkowski, a senior industrial engineering major and former member of intramural football, said that he misses playing on the team but knows the renovations aim for a larger goal than just his time on the field.

“I definitely want to play this year, but I understand that the University isn’t going to stop plans for some senior’s last year of intramural football,” Chajkowski said.

Despite the difficult practice schedule and the inconvenience, Earle said he’s accepting of the displacement since it’s temporary and will result in improvements to their facilities.

“It’s something we really wanted,” Earle said.

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