Liz Foster ’22
Trinity College’s plans for renovating the Ferris Athletic Center and other athletics facilities—a key element of the College’s Comprehensive Campaign—are suspended indefinitely following the COVID-19 restriction on capital projects in April by President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney.
In November of 2019, the Tripod reported that plans for the renovations included expanding the Ferris Athletic Center, new bleachers for the Jesse-Miller Field, replacing and moving the existing press box to a new location between the Jesse-Miller Field and Robin L. Sheppard Field, and locating a health center inside of Ferris, among others.
The Tripod spoke with Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education Drew Galbraith who indicated that the College received approval from the Board of Trustees for “the bleacher and press box project” back in February. While construction was slated to begin in May, the “project was placed on hold in March with the onset of the virus.” Also paused was the “schematic design phase of the Ferris addition,” which had begun earlier this winter.
The Tripod relayed in late April that the College had no definitive plans for the 2021 fiscal year budget, but would “draw on the full amount of a $10 million line of credit that the college has with J.P. Morgan Chase and Co.” As a result of the College’s endowment dropping 20%, causing a $120 million loss, and an anticipated struggle for the 2021 FY, President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney wrote that any developments unrelated to “life-safety” would be suspended through June 30, 2021, the end of the fiscal year.
Currently, all renovations, constructions, and replacements are on pause and will remain so until further notice. No new decision or cost cutting has been made with respect to design schematics, but Galbraith stated that the College “will be revisiting the design plans when appropriate and making sure that the current plans are economical and can effectively impact as many students as possible.” Galbraith underscored his comments by indicating that, should COVID-19 dramatically impact the existing health center and athletic facilities, one could anticipate a shift in blueprints to better suit a future crisis of this nature.
When asked about any existing concrete or tentative plans for moving forward with construction, Galbraith stated that “the current focus, and appropriately so, is on figuring out what the upcoming academic year will look like and how we best support our current and incoming students. We will reinvigorate fundraising and planning when appropriate and with the necessary guidance from the President and Trustees.”
Plans for the fall athletics season have similarly not been put in place, but Galbraith emphasized the importance of health among students, coaches, and staff. The goal across fields, locker rooms, and comparable facilities, noted Galbraith, is to “prioritize safety and limit the spread of the coronavirus. If students are to compete on teams in close contact, precautions must be taken to limit infection among players.”
When asked about what a fall athletics season should look like, Tijani Harris ’22, a running back for Trinity’s varsity football team, responded that “fall and winter sports should have no live audience whatsoever. Fans should be able to watch sports through online services instead of going to stadiums and gymnasiums.” Reducing or eliminating a live audience would decrease the threat of further spread of the coronavirus, Harris argued. Trinity’s limiting of a live audience would mirror that of professional sports leagues’ spectator-free games in February as well.
The NESCAC Association has not released any official plans for the upcoming varsity season, but Galbraith stressed that students can anticipate that college sports will not look exactly as they did before the coronavirus.
The last update from the NESCAC Athletic Directors in response to COVID-19 was an agreement released in mid-April that in-person athletic recruitment, both on and off campuses, would pause until June 15 at the earliest.