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New Sports Field Coming to West Campus

$3 million from New Balance helps BU double field capacity, add men’s lacrosse

Athletic shoe manufacturer New Balance has pledged $3 million to Boston University for a new and much-needed sports field that will greatly improve athletic and recreational life at the school on many levels.

New Balance Field will be built on Babcock Street, near Nickerson Field, and will open in fall 2013. It will effectively double BU’s field capacity, making it possible to bring field hockey back to campus and to add varsity sports, notably a men’s varsity lacrosse team, which will play its premier season the following spring at Nickerson Field.

“As a Boston-based company with a long-standing commitment to promoting health and fitness and giving back to the local community, we are excited to help provide this valuable athletic resource for the Boston University community,” says Robert DeMartini, president and CEO of New Balance. “We share Boston University’s passion and dedication to continued innovation and excellence in sport, and enhancing the lives of their student-athletes and the greater Boston University community.”

“New Balance Field will be a major addition to our athletic and recreational facilities,” says President Robert A. Brown. “I am very grateful to New Balance for its leadership and support and to our alumni who have given generously to make this facility a reality. The field will benefit not only our student-athletes and the greater BU community, but it will allow us to expand our very successful NCAA Division 1 athletics program.”

The University will break ground for the 110,000-square-foot field this spring, shortly after Commencement. New Balance Field will fill the BU-owned block surrounded by Babcock, Gardner, Alcorn, and Ashford Streets. Gary Nicksa, senior vice president for operations, says the open-air field will have a brick facade and stadium seating for 1,000. A 350-space parking garage will be built under the field, with an entrance on Ashford Street. The total cost of the field and the parking area is estimated at $24 million.

“The new field is a highly imaginative use of precious space in an urban environment,” says Todd Klipp, BU senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary of the Board of Trustees. “It will have an enormous impact on athletic and recreational life here, not only for our sports teams, but for the entire BU community.”

Babcock Street, Boston University, New Balance Field

A parking lot and a BU building will be razed to construct the new field. Photo courtesy of Cannon Design

A second athletic field is a welcome solution to a space crunch on a campus where 3 varsity teams and nearly 200 intramural teams vie for space on one field. Nickerson Field has been so heavily used that the artificial turf that should have lasted 15 years had to be replaced after 8. Michael Lynch, assistant vice president and director of athletics, says that Nickerson is booked solid with games and practices from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day for weeks ahead. It is often necessary to reserve the field six months in advance.

The women’s varsity field hockey team had to leave Nickerson after the 2000 season, when Field Turf, which is too spongy and slow for the sport, was installed. The nationally ranked team has not played or practiced at BU for the past 11 years, but has had to be bused to games and daily practices at MIT or Harvard. Coach Sally Starr has also had to recruit players for a team with no field.

“This new field is huge,” Starr says. “Now we’ll have one of the best fields in the conference. It will help our recruiting greatly. We already have two top players committed for 2013.”

BU is jumping into Division 1 varsity men’s lacrosse at the right time, Lynch says. Currently 61 schools compete nationally at the Division 1 level, and Harvard is the only school in the Boston area with a Division 1 lacrosse team. “It’s a sport that is really hot here in New England,” he says. “We are hoping to be a national leader here.”

With the funding in place for the field, Lynch will start raising money for the team. He plans to build the program slowly, as he did with women’s hockey. A coach and staff will be hired next year, but the program’s scholarships won’t be fully funded until the fourth year.

“From a budget perspective, it’s more prudent that way,” he says. “We can evaluate things as we go forward. We are building a team for the long haul.”

BU will also add a women’s varsity lightweight rowing team next fall. “This will put us in the class with some of the best schools,” Lynch says. The rowing program has been rebuilding over the past few seasons, he says, and the addition should help it return to the national rankings it had in the 1980s.

New Balance Field will also make it possible for BU to increase the number of intramural sports, such as ultimate Frisbee, and to bring back club sports that have had to play off campus, such as the men’s and women’s rugby.

The field will beautify a rather unsightly parcel on campus. Currently, a large surface parking lot fills most of the block. A run-down brick building housing the BU band and ROTC programs, as well as surplus office furniture, dominates the corner of Babcock and Gardner Streets. That building will be knocked down and the programs and stored furniture relocated.

A pocket park with trees will flank the field’s western side, adding a touch of green to a pavement-heavy stretch of West Campus. The brick facade around the field will have several openings, so rugby huddles and students chasing down Frisbees can be easily seen from the surrounding streets.

“For BU,” says Lynch, “New Balance Field will be transformative.”

30 Comments
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Amy Sutherland

Amy Sutherland can be reached at alks@bu.edu.

30 Comments on New Sports Field Coming to West Campus

  • Jack on 02.14.2012 at 7:23 am

    I cant quite place where this will be?

    • Aaron L'Heureux on 02.14.2012 at 9:13 am

      The enormous parking lot will be converted to the field and the lot will go underground. That’s my take on it anyway. The tree-lined above ground parking is adjacent to the Star Market parking lot if my assumption is correct.

      Parking while this is being built will be painful, that lot is gigantic and frequently filled.

  • Old School on 02.14.2012 at 7:55 am

    Congratulations on an excellent use for that space, and for brining in one of the most popular NCAA sports to the varsity level!

    When designing the parking facility, please, please consider putting in bus parking bays for the times when the area is over-run by parking demand for track meets that happen at the TTC at the same time as basketball games.

  • Gabriella Campozano on 02.14.2012 at 9:00 am

    My hope is that BU Athletics will aim to partner with the neighborhood public schools and community centers, such as the Gardner Elementary School, Jackson Mann Community, Center, the West End House Boys & Girls Club and Brighton High School. Inner city students will benefit to exposure and sports clinics on lacrosse and field hockey. I’m glad to read that New Balance continues to be involved with the Brighton community and BU.

  • Rachel on 02.14.2012 at 10:43 am

    Does this mean they’re finally going to give the BU Bands an actual band room instead of the garage they’re demolishing in that “a rather unsightly parcel on campus ” we had my entire time at BU?

  • A on 02.14.2012 at 11:06 am

    It is amazing how much Mike Lynch has done for BU ever since he arrived on campus. This man is a visionary and will go down as one of the most important people to have ever stepped foot on campus. Amazing.

  • Brian on 02.14.2012 at 12:07 pm

    This is such a great addition to the campus — the undergraduate experience has long taken a back set to research and graduate programs, and we have the rankings to prove it. Athletics are a selling point for so many prospective students at the undergraduate level and further investment in facilities is not only important, it’s imperative. This will lead to more competitive applicants, and an overall more interesting and dynamic undergraduate program.

  • M on 02.14.2012 at 12:14 pm

    Wow! Much needed. Now tell me that they’re going to put a bubble over it in the winter like Harvard and I think MIT do, and I’ll have died and gone to heaven. We’ve had all too many club sports practices from 9-11pm on Nickerson in February with our waterbottles frozen over by the end.

  • Andy on 02.14.2012 at 12:37 pm

    This is great news. Since I have graduated (’07), BU has taken enormous strides academically and athletically. A major Northeast university should not be without a varsity men’s lacrosse team… this is wonderful to see.

  • Kristof on 02.14.2012 at 2:37 pm

    So can we spend ridiculous amounts of money on a proper building for the band, and a practice field that isn’t a cracked concrete roof? I’d like that better, actually.

    • Skip on 02.14.2012 at 3:54 pm

      How much money does the band pull into the university compared to athletics?

      • Antoine on 02.14.2012 at 4:10 pm

        Don’t think in terms like that. Instead, point out that New Balance seems to be footing the bill. What should we do? Turn them down saying it’s the band’s turn now?

        • Skip on 02.14.2012 at 4:36 pm

          “New Balance seems to be footing the bill”, very clever, I like it.

        • Jose Davis on 02.14.2012 at 7:37 pm

          lol. I’m fairly confident that neither the band nor a varsity lacrosse team directly increase revenue much. If anything, the lacrosse team will cost more than revenue due to scholarships and an increase in coaching salary. However, both the band and the lacrosse team will indirectly increase alumni support and increase student satisfaction. My guess would be a higher value for the band since they enhance the spectator experience for games that BU students actually go to (mens hockey and mens basketball).

        • Dan on 02.15.2012 at 7:32 am

          New Balance is only paying $3 million out of the $24 million that it will cost.

  • Anony on 02.14.2012 at 3:51 pm

    While a new lacrosse field is interesting, it seems more of a gimmick than a need. BU needs an acceptable performance space so badly it’s a bit embarrassing and seriously detracts from the experience of music students as well as the audience. The Tsai Center is an acoustical nightmare and hasn’t seen any effort from BU to improve the sound or build a space that would be far superior. The consequences on the music students are large and prospectives find it highly unattractive. With BU’s funding, faculty, and commitment, the School of Music could become one of the finest in the nation. Until this potential is realized by the top dogs in administration and a serious effort is put forth to further renovate facilities for the arts, the music school will remain in a state of mediocrity.

    • Jay on 02.14.2012 at 5:29 pm

      If you want to be a performing arts student, head East on Comm Ave and make a right when you get to Mass Ave. Play your Violin over at Berkley.

      • Amanda on 09.26.2012 at 12:53 pm

        Berklee* ?

  • Aly on 02.14.2012 at 4:02 pm

    How about some more art and performance space? BU keeps asserting its support for the arts, but I have yet to see anything physical put in place to back that initiative at all.

    • Kelly on 02.14.2012 at 4:59 pm

      I know they are working on a capital campaign for CFA. I’m sure if they got a sponsorship or level of support like they got for this field it would help speed the process along.

    • AC on 02.14.2012 at 7:40 pm

      If you read past BU master plans, there was an initiative to renovate CFA but they are having trouble with funding. But it is something that has definitely been looked at. http://www.bu.edu/cfa/about/renovations/

  • catherine on 02.15.2012 at 2:36 am

    I was unaware that our need for another sports team was so pressing. Perhaps this money could be put to better use elsewhere.

    • Andy on 02.15.2012 at 9:41 am

      BU just spent millions revitalizing Comm Ave, building StuVi2, and building an entire new east campus area. Those were pressing issues, the university addressed them, and I am confident that they will continue addressing others.

    • Brian on 02.15.2012 at 10:17 am

      Awareness is a personal responsibility.

    • Paul on 04.05.2012 at 1:02 pm

      I agree. The money could be going elsewhere. How about keeping tuition down. I am perfectly happy without that new field, and I would say 90% of BU is happy without that new field, but all are unhappy about the tuition hikes.

    • Amanda on 09.26.2012 at 12:55 pm

      I’m guessing you either don’t play sports at BU, or play for one of the three varsity sports that get prime practice times, whichever days you choose. There are so many underappreciated club teams that get practice once or twice a week for only 45 minutes. WIth a school the size of BU, we really need another field space. Having one is just ridiculous.

  • Graham Edmondson on 02.15.2012 at 1:00 pm

    I’m just going to point out that there are walls on the 3rd floor of the CFA that are “fixed” with construction paper. We did a show on the entire School of Theatre side of the floor last quarter, it was probably the first time those walls (not related to the construction paper ones) have been painted/sanded/fixed at all in years. BU just doesn’t pay any attention at all to the CFA building, let alone giving us adequate funding to maintain our programs.
    Also, when’s the last time you saw Dean Elmore or anyone from that office promoting or attending a Performance or art display? Yet they’re at almost every hockey game…

    • James P. on 02.16.2012 at 5:46 pm

      A tad bit bitter? Hockey is all BU has when you consider the national sports scene. The biggest donors and most loyal alumni attend the games. I think it’s more important for a dean/president/school official to attend a hockey game then some recital/show. Hockey is a huge marketing tool for the university. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but CFA isn’t.

      Get your facts straight. Athletics is separately funded through ticket revenue and donations (I’d estimate it’s close to 95% donations, maybe more). They are NOT getting handouts from the University. Mike Lynch (the AD), along with the help of the varsity coaches, has led that department to new heights it has never reached before. He has built relationships with alums (both former athletes and avid fans), which has translated into an increase of donations. The Athletic Department has earned every cent it is spending on this project, along with every cent it spent on past projects.

      As a donor, it’s your choice as to where your money is to be directed. As a former varsity student-athlete, my money will always be directed to the Athletic Dept, and I am proud to say that. In this case, $24M in donations were pledged to the Athletic Dept at the sole discretion of the donor.

      Maybe the CFA should take follow what the Athletic Department has done and start taking some initiative and responsibility instead of sitting around, being jealous of the fruits of the labor of someone else and constantly complaining. No one likes a chronic complainer.

  • S.N. on 03.15.2012 at 3:24 pm

    Does this mean we’re getting a football team?

  • DoubleTerrier on 04.05.2012 at 11:00 am

    I am from Boston, went to BU undergrad and dental. I love the fact that New Balance is a Boston based company and taking care of their own. Just another reason to support New Balance instead of the other shoe brands who only care about advertising and ripping people off

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