Last month, the Boston Globe spotlighted the controversy surrounding Boston College’s plans to build a new recreation complex to replace the current plex. Though BC’s recently announced investments in athletic facilities will bring long-needed upgrades to both varsity athletes and everyday students alike, the plex plans drew immediate scrutiny, particularly from a few sports that felt like the plans didn’t properly address their needs.
In particular, the swimming, fencing and tennis teams feel as though the plans left them in the dark and didn’t take their needs in to consideration.
Paul Goudreau, whose son swam at BC, spoke of his frustration that the plans were designed “without even talking to the coaches and atheltes that will train and compete there,” stating that the facilities will be “inferior to the athletic facilities of other schools in the ACC on the day it opens.”
Boston College athletic director Brad Bates contests the notion that coaches of these sports weren’t engaged, stating that he believes all stakeholders were part of the “18 month planning process” that came prior to the announcement of the new Plex. However, he agreed in a recent interview with BC Interruption that not everyone may be happy with the final plans.
“We have a lot of constituents that will be using this facility, and each has ideal facilities they’d like to have for their sport,” said Bates. “Ultimately, we have finite resources and dimensional restrictions. We’re trying to create a great facility for every constituent within those confines.”
A petition has been circulated by BC swimming and diving alums to protest the plans and what they felt was a lack of accountability in the design process.
The proposed facilities for swimming and diving have drawn the most controversy. The new swimming and diving facilities will not include a three-meter diving board or ten-meter diving tower. In addition, a four-lane pool will be designated as a space for offering swim classes to the community, rather than being dedicated to the swimming and diving program, meaning 33% of pool space is not for the student-athletes. This had led a number of swimming alums to express concern that BC prioritized community swim classes over facilities needs for the varsity program.
Though a ten-meter tower tower isn’t used at collegiate meets, it is a standard piece of equipment at most pools. The biggest shock to the program is the loss of the 3-meter board, which is a staple of collegiate meets. The lack of this board and a separate diving well will hurt BC’s competitiveness at meets, where diving is part of the overall scoring.
Boston University’s fitness and recreation center includes these kinds of facilities, which has made their aquatics complex one of the most well-known in the region.
Another concern has come from alums of the tennis program. Dennis Reardon ‘07, a former captain of BC tennis, told BCI that BC’s tennis facilities have historically lagged behind the rest of the conference; “we had to play at a local club rather than the Plex for ACC matches,” he said.
While other ACC complexes have 6 indoor and 6 outdoor courts with a viewing pavilion, BC’s current plex as 6 outdoor and 4 indoor courts with no viewing area. The new plex is slated to have 3 indoor courts; nothing has been announced regarding outdoor court space, leading to concerns BC might not be able to practice on campus.
Bates says the plan for outdoor courts simply has not been finalized at this point.
“The courts could remain where they currently are, or there could be outdoor courts built by the new plex,” Bates said. He added that he’s not sure how many outdoor courts there will be yet, but that plans are forthcoming.
Another sport outspoken about the plex plan has been BC fencing. Brian Gong, a former BC fencer, told BCI through a source that he was disappointed the new plex proposal doesn’t tackle the issue of insufficient training space for the fencing team. Currently, the fencing team competes on the indoor tennis courts. Nothing in the current plan for the new plex specifically addresses fencing.
Bates says that the fencing team will “be in a better position in the new plex” than in the current one, even though plans haven’t been finalized to this point.
"There's more multipurpose space [in the new Plex]," said Bates, including activity space that can be used by a number of different sports.
“There’s just a lot more square footage of that kind of multi-purpose space, which will be beneficial to a number of our teams, including fencing,” he added.
How things shake out for tennis and fencing are yet to be determined, but it does seem like the new facility will ultimately handicap the swimming and diving program - already often out of its depth in the highly competitive ACC. However, Bates remains pleased by the current facilities plan.
“We are creating a diversity of opportunities for students and student-athletes alike with the new plex, designed based on feedback from faculity and staff,” said Bates. “Theres a really dynamic setup within the building that is framed around priorities based on survey feedback, trends in recreation, and work by our consultants.”
“The goal was to address areas where students and student-athletes are spending most of their time,” he said.
“We’ve spent years doing significant planning and fundraising, some of which is public and some of which will be in the near future,” said Bates. “The byproduct is some really exciting facility and competitive enhancements that we’re going to see in the next couple of years.”
“The new baseball and softball facility will be a game-changer for those programs, who have made outstanding progress. And the new fieldhouse is addressing a major need for our teams that need indoor practice space.”
Time will tell if what was addressed will be adequate to address the concerns of the tennis and fencing teams.
At least one sport, however, is already confirmed to be disappointed by this wave of construction.