Pitt club sports need game space

By Gwenn Barney

The Pitt men’s club soccer team has a goal for this semester, and Student Government Board… The Pitt men’s club soccer team has a goal for this semester, and Student Government Board members said they will defend it.

The team wants to petition the University for access to the Ambrose Urbanic Field, located on Pitt’s upper campus, for games.

But the Athletic Department bans club sports from playing on University fields, putting it at odds with the Pitt men’s club soccer team as well as other club athletic teams.

Men’s club soccer plays in the Tri-State Premier League, which requires its members to host at least one home game a season. The issue for the club Panthers is that their practice fields, the Cost Sports Center fields, also on upper campus, do not meet regulations for competitive games.

This past spring semester, club team president, sophomore Ray Ludwig, met with officials in Pitt’s Athletic Department and requested the use of the field for one game to meet the League’s requirement.

“We made a one-game request. We requested a two-hour block on a weekend,” Ludwig said. “It didn’t matter which weekend. It could be during the day, the night, the morning. It was the simplest request possible.”

The club president’s request was turned down. Ludwig said that members of the Athletic Department said University officials decided after ground was broken on Ambrose Urbanic Field that only varsity soccer members would be allowed access to the field.

Ludwig said that this is because the field was funded privately, not through tuition fees. John and Gertrude Petersen funded much of the Petersen Sports Complex, which contains the soccer field. The Athletic Department and University officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“Of course varsity teams should have first dibs on fields,” Ludwig said. “But I don’t think that should blockade club teams from using it.”

To remain in its league this semester, men’s club soccer will rent Founders Field, a 20-minute drive from campus, for one day at a cost of $1,200.

“That’s a pretty big cost for us,” Ludwig said. “Our dues went up $30 per player.”

After the springtime rejection, Ludwig let the situation simmer for the summer before bringing his concerns before SGB at a meeting Sept. 6.

SGB agreed to take up the fight for club field time alongside Ludwig and his team.

“This is not a promise that we can get clubs on the field,” SGB member Ryan Gayman said. “But this is starting a conversation. There’s a problem with how our system is set up.”

Ludwig met with Gayman and SGB member James Landreneau last Thursday to assess the best way to move forward with the team’s complaint. Ludwig and Gayman said they want to gather as much support as possible before meeting with administrators again. They are hoping that other club teams experiencing similar difficulties in finding an on-campus field will join the club soccer team as it begins a new round of talks with the University.

The men’s team already has the women’s club soccer team’s support. Without a home field, women’s club soccer plays all of its games on the road, with the exception of one tournament it hosts at Oakland Catholic High School’s field in North Oakland.

Team co-president Stephanie Garofalo believes if the administration allows club soccer to play on the Ambrose Urbanic Field, it would free up SGB money for other organizations. Women’s club soccer currently receives $5,000 from the student activities fund for travel each semester.

Gayman said he would not release figures for how much teams might save in the event of a policy change without meeting with all interested club team leaders first.

Ludwig said other club teams in Pitt’s men’s club soccer league, including Carnegie Mellon’s team, are permitted to use their school’s varsity team fields.

Soccer isn’t the only club sport without a playing field.

Pitt’s club water polo team president Harrison Fisher said that the team is not permitted to host games in Trees Hall.

He said that the water polo league typically plays in tournaments, so the pool would have to be reserved for several hours. Because of the large number of acquatic organizations both affiliated and non-affiliated with Pitt, Fisher said there isn’t enough time available to make reservations.

Fisher mentioned that club tournaments normally include entrance fees paid by the club team participants to the host team. If tournaments were hosted at the University, it would allow the club team to make money for expenses.

Pitt’s club men’s and women’s volleyball teams have been waiting since July to hear back about a request made to the Intramural Office to use the Fitzgerald Field House for a men’s tournament in October and women’s in November.

Paige Lloyd, women’s club volleyball president, said that she fears it won’t have time to get other teams to sign up for the tournaments if it doesn’t hear back soon.

“Being a Pitt-affiliated organization, we don’t get the recognition we deserve,” she said.

Men’s club volleyball members work as ball boys and towel boys for women’s varsity matches to raise money for game and tournament travel expenses that exceed SGB allocations. Next month, the team will attend a tournament at Michigan State, which will cost $2,000 out of pocket.

SGB allocations cover the team’s annual trip to nationals, but participation in other tournaments comes out of pocket.

“We’re fortunate to work all the women’s varsity games,” team president Alex Hinsey said. “It really helps out.”

Club field hockey also doesn’t have any home games on its schedules because of lack of playing field.

“It would definitely be really nice to use the [Ambrose Urbanic Field], because then we could actually have home games or host a tournament,” Roxanne Dewalt, field hockey president, said.

Gayman acknowledged that the push to get club teams onto varsity-designated fields could be an arduous one.

“This is definitely something that will need to be chipped away at with a lot of hard work,” he said.

The men’s club soccer team is prepared for the long haul, but its members know student support is a necessity to achieve their goal.

“If it’s me against the University of Pittsburgh, that clearly won’t work,” Ludwig said. “If other clubs are experiencing the same problems, I urge them to make an effort and encourage them to challenge the policy.”