When I opened this year’s second issue of The Ithacan on Sept. 5 and flipped through to the front page of the sports section, I found a story focused on a question I’ve certainly pondered myself: Should Butterfield Stadium be renovated?
As the story points out, there are visible problems with the stadium. The field, bleachers and press boxes are outdated, and the hill that the stadium is built on is showing signs of erosion. Susan Bassett, director of intercollegiate athletics and recreational sports, said she is currently evaluating these issues.
“We are always going to have some interest in enhancing what we have,” Bassett said. “Everybody is well aware that there’s a need for improvement at Butterfield Stadium because of the erosion of the hill that’s creating problems. It’s one of our largest well-known facilities.”
Despite these issues, several current and former football players defended the stadium in the story, citing tradition and even claiming the old grass field gives the team an advantage over visiting opponents.
In my opinion, the reason Butterfield Stadium should be left alone has nothing to do with preserving history. Instead, it comes down to the fact that there are simply more pressing construction projects the college needs to take care of.
When I read Andreas Jonathan’s recent commentary in The Ithacan about the Cerrache Center, I was once again reminded of the troubling gap between administrators’ goals and student issues — a problem that needs to be addressed.
The combined cost of the three most recent renovations to the college’s athletic facilities totaled $83.6 million. It’s important to note that the projects were mostly paid for by alumni donors and not from the college’s endowment. Though athletes make up only 17 percent of the student population, alumni are more excited to write a check to the college for a new football stadium than for a new computer lab.
But let’s take a second to remember what this college has built its reputation on. Ithaca College is renowned for its music and theater programs, for its pre-professional programs in physical, athletic and occupational training and for its communications programs. Though Bomber teams routinely compete for Division III championships, the majority of the student population is not here to play varsity sports.
I think Butterfield Stadium is an eyesore just as much as anyone else, but isn’t it time for the college to focus on other aspects of the students’ experience? It’s a shame that our administrators can’t rally as much enthusiasm from alumni donors to save the physical therapy department’s Rochester, N.Y., branch, for instance, as it can to build a new indoor track.
Bombers athletics is a way of life for a small selection of students on this campus, but many more are here for academics. I urge the college’s administrators to find more enticing methods that will influence alumni donors to give money to renovation projects that reflect the actual demographics of the campus.