Delayed compromises hamper practice facility construction - Collegiate Times : Virginia Tech

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Delayed compromises hamper practice facility construction

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 12:00 am

Learning how to make compromises is something most people master in preschool.

Yet, for the Virginia Tech athletic department, this is a virtue that still needs some work.

It took Jim Weaver and company the better part of 15 years, but the department finally found a way of constructing a new indoor football practice facility without offending some part of the Blacksburg community.

After earlier plans suggested locating the facility in the area known as the “Stadium Woods” behind Lane Stadium or in place of the Washington Street tennis courts and roller hockey rink, athletics finally found a location that causes minimal waves.

Now, the facility is due to be placed on part of the football team’s extensive practice fields, providing immediate shelter for players from Blacksburg’s unpredictable weather.

It seems to be an agreeable solution, and although the football team would likely have to reduce the size of their outdoor practice fields under the new plan, it hasn’t attracted the firestorm of controversy the previous options provoked.

Environmentalists detested the idea of the destruction of trees that were centuries of years old. Recreational athletes protested the razing of their already limited facilities.

It was clear that neither solution was practical while alternatives existed.

The real question though, is how it took so long for the department to come to this relatively simple conclusion.

Throughout the battle over Stadium Woods, the only alternative ever publicized was the Washington Street option.

It took the university presenting new options for the project to the Board of Visitors this June for the new practice field plan to even emerge.

Tech’s Office of University Planning gave the location high marks in categories like “walking time,” “pedestrian safety and lightning protection,” “parking loss and replacement” and “respect iconic views and scale.”

In many cases, the practice field site graded higher than both the Stadium Woods and Washington Street options.

But somehow, most people are only just hearing about the current proposal now.

It’s not as if building a practice facility adjacent to outdoor practice fields is some sort of revolutionary idea.

In fact, a pair of fellow ACC schools just provided perfect examples of how to do so.

Virginia completed a facility next to their fields last fall, while Florida State finished a similar building this August.

While no Hokie necessarily wants to imitate the Seminoles or Cavaliers, this probably should’ve been strong evidence that the practice field option was a viable one.

Instead, Weaver and associate director of athletics for internal affairs Tom Gabbard pressed ahead with a pair of controversial plans and further delayed the construction of the facility.

Honestly, it’s puzzling that the department pushed for the Stadium Woods site in the first place.

The university’s “Master Plans” for both 2006 and 2009 list the Washington Street site as the proposed location for the new facility.

While school officials have frequently made it clear that those plans were fluid, the eventual nomination of the Stadium Woods site came as quite a surprise.

The location was clearly very convenient, but that’s just one small part of what the administration should’ve considered.

Although it’s unlikely that Weaver and Gabbard could’ve predicted exactly how strong the opposition to the project would be, it’s still confusing that they thought that a university as agriculturally oriented as Tech is would let the destruction of the trees pass unnoticed.

After all, the Arbor Day Foundation has awarded the university with “Tree Campus USA” honors for its dedication to forestry management four different times.

But even before activists started taking notice of the project, it would’ve made sense that the athletic department took the predominant pro-nature sentiment around Blacksburg more seriously.

Now, Gabbard suggested that 2015 would be an optimistic estimation the completion of the new facility.

The department could’ve started things much sooner had officials just examined other options that required some compromise, instead of pushing ahead with a pair of divisive plans.

Concerns that the practice field could disrupt the football team by limiting the size of the outdoor field or by cluttering the area with construction are greatly outweighed by the damage this indecision did to the coaches’ recruiting efforts.

Tech has desperately needed a new practice facility to keep up with other big programs, and had the athletic department taken a different approach to the endeavor, maybe it wouldn’t have taken more than a decade to make it happen. 

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