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October 14, 2004

Connecticut: The Little State That Could . . . . And Did

FROM THE LITTLE STATE WEDGED BETWEEN BOSTON AND NEW YORK comes word of an epic flurry of capital additions, improvements and renovations involving almost every college athletics program in Connecticut.

With the UConn phenomenon as a powerful role model, Connecticut institutions of all shapes and sizes have completed dozens of athletic (and academic) facility projects with dozens more yet to come.

In aggregate, the building boom at all the Connecticut schools will total over $400 million in spending from 1997 to 2007.

The big daddy of them all has been the University of Connecticut.

Aided and abetted by nearly the entire state population, UConn has propelled itself willfully from an academically sound but sleepy regional school with negligible national awareness to an academically sound school of international renown.

The inspirational success of its men’s and women’s basketball teams, led by a pair of popular coaches in Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma, has been the catalyst for the huge image makeover statewide.

To be sure, massive investments in academic upgrades—such as UConn2000 ($1-billion project) expanded by 21st Century UConn ($1.3 billion)—have far exceeded athletics investments. But in the relatively short time span of a couple decades of athletic (read basketball) success, UConn is now on the wish list for tens of thousands of college applicants from around the country.

Now UConn hats and shirts are worn proudly by kids in the Midwest and the West coast; two decades ago their parents thought UConn was a Canadian school (Yukon, get it?).

Go figure.

When you listen to the various athletics officials describing the need and benefits of the improvements, the ring of neo-UConn marketing shows through.

From Quinnipiac AD Jack McDonald, "I think sports, as a piece of our society, seems to get thicker and thicker. Facilities have boomed, but sports and recreation have boomed as well. Recreation when I went to college was cards in the student union. Now, it’s hopping on a treadmill or working out in the fitness center.”

And from Quinnipiac President John L. Lahey, "It’s $120,000 dollars (in tuition, room and board) over four years here. Students expect . . . to have first-rate programs, first-rate faculty and first-rate facilities."

In alphabetical order, here are the highlights of the Connecticut building boom:

ALBERTUS MAGNUS
• Renovated soccer fields, opened student-wide weight room.

UNIV. OF BRIDGEPORT
• Renovated Hubbell Gymnasium, adding offices.

COAST GUARD ACADEMY
• Added artificial turf surface to football/soccer field.

CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE
• Installed Field Turf, and upgraded bleachers, locker rooms and press box for football stadium ($5.3 million).
• Addition on Kaiser Hall, adding coaches’ areas, administrative wing and renovated lobby and locker rooms ($6 million).

UNIV. OF CONNECTICUT
• $7 million in renovations to Gampel Pavilion (improved locker room and coaching areas).
• Opened $4.2-million UConn Ice Arena.
• $91 million Rentschler Field (for the recently-ascended D1-A football team).
• The Burton Football Complex and the Shenkman Training Center ($40 million).

EASTERN CONNECTICUT STATE
• Opened $5 million baseball stadium.
• $1.8 million project including outdoor track with artificial turf for field hockey and lacrosse.

FAIRFIELD
• Opened Walsh Athletic Center, a 51,000 square foot multipurpose facility.

UNIV. OF NEW HAVEN
• Upgraded Dodd Stadium. Former football practice field has been re-sodded.

QUINNIPIAC
• Athletic Center expansion: includes embanked 1/9-mile track; tennis courts, new offices and enhanced fitness center.
• $50 million, 157,000-square-foot Hudson United Bank Center with a 3500-seat basketball court and 3500-seat hockey rink, plus a Hall of Fame.

SACRED HEART
• Opened $17.5 million multi-use Pitt Health Center. (141,000 square feet).

SAINT JOSEPH'S
• Opened $1.7 million outdoor facilities, including a track, soccer field, softball field and six tennis courts.

SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT STATE
• Resurfaced Jess Dow Field ($2 million).
• Completed Phase 1 of Ballpark at SCSU ($1.2).

TRINITY COLLEGE
• A $5 million project: Sheppard Field (AstroTurf field hockey and lacrosse field with lights), Kellner Squash Center and FieldTurf for Jessee/Miller Field.
• $8 million ice arena, seating 1100, will be used by both students and the public.

WESLEYAN
• Freeman Athletic Center ($13 million).

WESTERN CONNECTICUT STATE
• Opened the $5.2 million Westside Athletic Complex, complete with Sprinturf for football, lacrosse and soccer.

YALE
• $100 million project on Payne Whitney gym: opened Lanman Center, a 57,000 square foot multi-purpose facility; opened Brady Squash Center and and opened 20,000-square foot "Ace" Israel Fitness Center.
• Opened $7.5 million Gilder Boathouse.
• Opened $1 million Johnson Field, a turf field, for field hockey.
• DeWitt Softball complex for $3.4 million.
• $1 million renovations of Yale Sailing Center.
• $22 million restoration of Yale Bowl (built in 1914).


Didn’t somebody—PT Barnum? WC Fields?—say, “If you build it, they will come?”

More later . . . .


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[Ed. Notes: 1- In the interest of maintaining its hard-earned e-publishing integrity, the Clips Editorial Board is compelled to inform readers of a decided journalistic bias toward all things Connecticut and / or New England. There’s no place like home. 2- Title copywriting assistance was provided by Dwayne Proctor, friend of Clips and occasional contributor.]


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(this 768 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was distilled from a 2042 word article from the New Haven Register of 10-10-04)