Year In Sports

Year In Sports: Syracuse teams struggle with athletic facility limitations

Last February, Syracuse University Athletics announced plans for a new, state-of-the-art $17 million practice facility for the Orange’s football program.

The proposed facility, to be built where the Joseph Vielbig Outdoor Track Stadium stands now, is expected to vastly enhance the program’s status and attract better recruits. Along with plans to build a new track facility on South Campus, it will also benefit other teams in the athletic program.

Until these new facilities open, though, some Syracuse programs have had to and will continue to compromise their practices due to the state of SU’s current facilities.

Even when the facilities are constructed, some programs will remain unimproved.

“Everyone has their own quirky things that maybe they’re working on,” said Paul Flanagan, the Syracuse women’s ice hockey head coach, “and their own little battles they have to fight.”

Women’s lacrosse combats overcrowding

When plans for the new football facility were announced, the SU women’s lacrosse program was fresh off a 2012 national championship appearance.

Some players had to — and still do — share lockers with each other in the team’s locker room at Manley Field House.

“I think it’s kind of b.s., personally,” Becca Block, a former SU defender, said last year, “because if you look at our locker room, definitely, I think it’s the worst one in Manley.”

The new football practice field will benefit both lacrosse teams, but won’t address the women’s team’s undersized locker room. So Gary Gait’s team took it upon itself to make a change.

As of April 16, the team had just over $100,000 left to raise to reach its goal of $1.2 million for a new locker room, Gait, SU’s head coach, said.

“If you want something done, sometimes you got to get involved and raise money yourself,” Gait said.

The Orange’s fundraising has relied mostly on parents, alumni and friends of the program.

But when asked if SU Athletics has helped out the team’s effort financially, Gait didn’t answer directly.

“Uh,” Gait said, dragging it out with a laugh. “We’re continuing to raise money. We’ll keep working on it.”

Gait said he hopes construction will begin in May and finish this summer. Though Gait said the location of the new locker room is being narrowed down, senior attack Alyssa Murray mentioned that a current Manley weight room could be remodeled into the new locker room.

“We’re due for a new locker room. Let’s just say that,” Gait said with a smile. “Certainly our plans for our facility will make it the best in the country.”

Murray said she doesn’t feel slighted that the team has had to take action itself without financial assistance from SU, but she and her teammates still feel they deserve better than what they have.

“The major thing is you want everyone to have their own space and have a space where you can hang out as a team,” Murray said. “I’m sure there are teams that have it worse than we do, but we’re a top team and we want to be able to celebrate that with a nice locker room.”

Men’s lacrosse adjusts to short practice field

When the SU men’s lacrosse team took the field in the Carrier Dome for its home opener Feb. 10, it was one of the first times the Orange played on a full field.

“We had almost nothing,” SU head coach John Desko said. “The cost of changing the Dome over from basketball to a full field for lacrosse is a lot. There just weren’t enough days to justify doing that.”

Desko often referenced Manley Field House’s 80-yard practice field when discussing his team’s early-season problems.

With basketball season overlapping with lacrosse and snow layering SU’s outdoor practice field, there was no full field for Desko’s squad to use. Gait said the women’s team faced the same issue.

“It’s getting old,” Desko said on March 3. “It’s hard to go against southern teams that have been on a full field the whole time.”

Nearly every position group had to adjust to practicing at Manley, which, in addition to not being as long as a full lacrosse field, isn’t as wide.

Syracuse’s clearing especially took a hit — an aspect of the game the Orange couldn’t afford to struggle in with its early-season problems at the faceoff X. The team’s clearing percentage still ranks outside the country’s top 35.

Said Desko of the new football practice facility: “That can’t get built quick enough for us.”

Field hockey practices in Archbold Gymnasium

Field turf isn’t an option for Ange Bradley’s field hockey team to practice on, so the hardwood of Archbold Gymnasium is SU’s winter home.

“Ideally, I’d like to have an indoor turf like Colgate has or the schools in the Big Ten have,” Bradley said. “But we’re not those schools and we don’t have that. What we do have is a wood floor that we practice on and use for skills and play indoor hockey.”

When the Syracuse winter hits, covering J.S. Coyne Stadium’s Astro 12 surface in snow, Bradley has little choice but to bring her team up to main campus and use a campus-wide facility.

SU doesn’t have an indoor AstroTurf facility for the field hockey program, the new indoor football facility won’t benefit field hockey and Bradley said practicing on the Manley turf would do the team more harm than good.

“Archbold is a very good training facility for us,” Bradley said. “The fact that we can use Archbold and train on a fast surface, it’s good. Is it the best? No. But it’s better than field turf.”

In the past, the Orange has started using Coyne right after Spring Break. This winter, though, the team couldn’t practice on its home field for two weeks after break.

As the temperatures rise and SU begins its early season play, the switch from indoor practices to outdoor play results in an adjustment period, Bradley said. Different sticks are used, and running is different.

“It’d be nice to be on a surface playing,” Bradley said. “But we’re able to maintain our competitiveness. We have to work a little bit harder than other programs out there, but hard work doesn’t hurt anyone, I guess.”

Ice hockey looks to ‘raise its profile’

Visitors to Tennity Ice Pavilion, unimpressed, ask Flanagan if the venue is his practice facility.

“Yeah, it is,” he tells them. “And we play our games here, too.”

It’s an ongoing battle for him and the women’s ice hockey program. The Department of Recreation Services owns Tennity Ice Pavilion. Flanagan said the building holds the program back in recruiting. He said the team feels fortunate to have a venue on campus, but has to compensate for Tennity in recruiting.

Making it a more spectator-friendly venue — an aspect recreation services isn’t concerned with, Flanagan said — is where he would start improvements.

At 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it isn’t a comfortable environment for spectators, he said. Added seating would help separate the hockey rink from the studio rink — where recreation services allows people to skate during games.

Those people can be seen on camera during broadcasts of the Orange’s games, also embarrassing Flanagan, he said, when he exchanges video with opposing teams.

In the past year, the Orange installed a new carpet placed in its locker room at Tennity and now has a 70-inch smart TV.

With the rest of the money the program has in its operating budget and from donors, it’s been able to keep its weight room at Tennity well-maintained.

“It’s a fully stocked, fully equipped operation there,” Flanagan said. “We have everything we need. Our locker room’s beautiful, but we kind of went rags to riches.”

The rest of Tennity is the problem.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting city hall,” he said. “But I think we should try to take pride in our facilities as a university. It shouldn’t matter if it’s athletics’ money, rec services’ money.”

SU played three games at the War Memorial Center this season to combat Tennity’s issues. The Orange can schedule almost any weekday game it wants there, Flanagan said.

“If we didn’t have this rink on campus, it’d be a nightmare for us,” Flanagan said of Tennity. “But I really think we should try to make that facility something we’re a little bit more proud of.”

  • Joe Price

    Coach Flanigan- My family loves going to the girls ice hockey games. The girls work so hard and are very competitive. However, my daughter really enjoys being able to skate in -between periods on the mini rink. Fun and unique. We would miss that, and of course playing trick or treat at the
    concession/vending machines ..LOL
    I would rethink that coach, or seriously consider playing all games at the War Memorial.

  • Jennifer Nolos

    Tennity Ice Skating Pavilion is not an embarrassing facility for anyone let alone the women’s ice hockey program. The facility was meant for recreational use and it is a private facility only open to those that are affiliated with Syracuse University, especially for SU’s college students. Tennity is not an ice rink whose sole purpose is to accommodate to the women’s division 1 hockey team or Coach Flanagan. The facility is meant for ANYONE of SU affiliation who enjoys ice skating and its many diciplines: hockey, figure skating, ice dancing, synchronized skating, even broomball.

    To start improving Tennity as a more ‘spectator-friendly’ venue, then it would probably be possible IF there were even that many spectators to accommodate to. Working during the games I personally probably only see a hundred spectators INCLUDING Tennity’s employees. Families also love the fact that they can come to a game where attendees can skate before the game starts, during half-time, and after the game ends. I personally recommend that if Coach Flanagan wants a facility that caters to the women’s ice hockey team and their needs then ANOTHER DIFFERENT facility be built just for their games and practices, because majority of their own team members are continuously rude to Tennity’s employees, myself included.

  • Joey Weinberg

    Except competing with the Crunch, I don’t see why it would be a problem playing their games at the War Memorial. I mean it’s not very far from campus to walk/drive to.

  • Guest

    HAHAHAHAHAHA

  • Sabrina

    Jennifer stop embarrassing yourself

  • mike

    First, there is no half-time in ice hockey. This clearly indicates you do not know the game very well. In your approach, you seem to be neglecting to see past the obvious. Yes, the girls are fortunate to have a rink to play at, but it also takes a lot to go in to playing ice hockey. The problem with Tennity is there is not enough space for a team to do a proper off-ice warm up. In addition, the more serious reasoning behind a new rink is the ability to keep up with the ice surface. As a hockey player living just outside of Syracuse, I have played at this rink before. The ice surface is terrible. There are so many divets and the ice is just horrible for a good fast-paced game of hockey to be played. As one who does not know skating very well, you would not understand this importance. So please look past the obvious and see why a new rink would be a good idea for the program itself and the reputation of Syracuse University facilities. Other teams probably come in and are so unimpressed with the rink.
    I would also like to add that you have probably never been to another division 1 college facility because if you have you would understand where this Coach is coming from.
    I completely disagree with every statement you made. It’s not about the amount of fans, it’s about the ice hockey environment
    As for the team members being rude, I work at store downtown and these girls come in all the time and are so respectful to me and my co workers. They are always offering to help me out and have positive attitudes about life.

  • mike

    ALSO WHERE DO PEOPLE PARK? I CAN NEVER FIND A PARKING SPOT HERE

  • Jennifer Nolos

    Well Michael, I don’t need to prove my credentials at this rink as clearly it would be a waste of your time and my own. And you’re absolutely right I have no idea what the technicalities and rules of ice hockey, but since you have mentioned that you have skated here before you have either skated during Tennity’s skate and shoot, intramural hockey, during your free time, or as an affiliate’s guest. With that said, whenever you come to the rink other programs have been on the ice previous to your skate, so yes the ice will have divets and ruts. When these girls skate for their games, as per NCAA rules and regulations no one is to touch that ice two hours prior to their game. As for their practices, only two people are allowed to surface the ice for them, which I have to add they do a fantastic job, so your complaint about the ice surface is completely ignorant. Oh, and you should park your car up by the tennis courts where there’s a sign that says ‘Tennity Ice Skating Pavilion Parking’ just in case ya missed that during your stay here. Just remember you’re entering an ice rink not a pool so dress warmly!

    I’ll also add, once again as I have stressed before, the rink was NOT built for a division 1 college ice hockey team. It was built for RECREATIONAL use, so really if a new facility is needed then SU’s athletic’s department should help them with their needs.

    Oh and on top of that I’m glad those girls are pleasant when they enter your store downtown, but you clearly do not work in the pro-shop of Tennity so you don’t know first hand how these girls truly are. I don’t work for the ice hockey team I work for the Department of Recreational Services and they treat their workers fantastically.

  • Frank

    What the story should have been is that SU Athletics doesn’t care about Non-revenue sports. To bring in Recreation Services is reckless and unwarranted.

  • Frank

    Go look at Mercyhurst’s Rink. You know nothing Mike. They win year after year.

  • mike

    Frank–Have you skated on the ice surface at tennity? After asking a friend of mine who works over at Mercyhurst University, he told me the ice surface is extremely smooth and well. ALSO all aside, why would you guys not want a state-of-the-art facility for Syracuse University?

  • mike

    I think what the Coach in the article is saying here is that the athletics appreciates that they have a rink on campus, BUT they would like to have a rink that is more appealing to recruits to build the program. I played college hockey, and the second factor in my decision was the facilities that I would spend most of my time– which would be the rink. From my personal experiences, I completely understand why this argument is brought up. I am not trying to shut down your comments as I think it is awesome that the rink is built around recreational services, but at the same time, a new facility would be undeniably the best thing to happen to the ice hockey programs at Syracuse University.

  • Jennifer Nolos

    Agreed. If that’s the case then that is an SU athletics department case.

  • Jennifer Nolos

    No one is opposing to the idea of a state-of-the-art facility for SU; however, as of right now we do not have that luxury so the problem is that SU ice hockey and recreational services have to cooperate and unfortunately it does not help when there’s tunnel vision involved. My main argument over this article is that this Coach refuses to wrap his mind around the fact that a) it’s not all about the ice hockey program b) that the rink is for recreational use and not just him and the needs for his team and c) continues to push the boundaries that he knows he cannot cross. If a new facility is needed then fine, once again, have SU athletics help this Coach with that specific need because it DOES matter if it’s ‘athletic’s money or rec services money’. Depending on who spends the money will dictate who has jurisdiction over the facility–simple as that.

  • Frank

    SU Athletics can’t afford State of the Art Ice Arena! I have skated at both rinks and many others during my club hockey days! No difference in ice. Who refers to ice as ‘smooth and well’. Hockey players want hard and fast. Once again you know nothing.

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