With a new scoreboard standing next to new bleachers and a new press box, the final remnants of the David M. Macaulay field are almost gone. These improvements to the Alumni Field will mean that Mount Allison athletes no longer have to play on a swamp, even if they live in one.
While athletes, students and the Sackville community will reap the benefits of the new field, the project also raises concerns about the priorities of the administration.
The old grass field was reserved exclusively for varsity athletics, with two soccer teams and a football team splitting game and practice time. Even with the limited use, the grass surface would deteriorate quickly.
As former varsity soccer player and current team manager Matt Poole put it, “by early October every year, the grass field was a complete swamp. It was nobody’s fault. That was just the nature of trying to maintain a grass field when you have [several] sports teams using it.”
Citing the opportunity for more use, Athletic Director Pierre Arsenault said the new field is a “game-changer.” In the past “the grass field [was] used for 150 hours per year in a 10-week period.” In contrast, Arsenault stated that the turf field can now be used throughout most of the year “for over 1,000 hours.”
The durability of turf means the new field will be more inclusive. Instead of being reserved for varsity teams, Alumni Field is open to club teams’ practices, intramural games, and individual use – not only for students, but also for Sackville residents.
“This summer, we’ve partnered with Football New Brunswick, hosted Lacrosse New Brunswick, [and] hosted soccer camps. Last year we [were] able to host high school football games, which we will do again this year,” said Arsenault.
“When people come here and see the new facilities, they see a school that takes its athletics seriously,” said Poole.
The first phase of Alumni Field’s installation cost $1.5 million and was financed through alumni donations. The upgrades, which represent the second phase of the project and are set to be finished this year, will cost approximately $800,000, according to Arsenault.
Last week, Beauséjour MP Dominic LeBlanc announced that the provincial and federal governments will each donate $250,000 to the second phase of the project. The university has also committed to contributing $250,000 to the upgrades, all of which has been fundraised.
Not everyone in the Mt. A community is excited about the field. When asked about the project, Katharyn Stevenson, president of the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) Society, questioned its accessibility.
“They have this exciting new project and it’s millions of dollars and [they] say that it’s alumni money that’s going towards benefitting our overall health and wellness,” Stevenson s
aid. “I don’t feel welcome going out on that field. Not at all. The reality is that it benefits very specific groups of people on campus.”
Concerning how the money for the field was raised, Stevenson said, “the [administration] markets toward certain alumni and say they want to build a field, but I’ve never heard them say, ‘our WGST program has little to no money, do you want to help save that?’”
“Alumni can do what they want with their money, but there is definitely an aspect to guiding where they donate.”