The new recreational space will be across the street from the Aiken Street entrance of the Campus Recreation Center. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell)
Slated for completion by the first day of the fall 2017 semester, UMass Lowell will have brand new athletic and recreational fields on east campus. They will be open to both residential and commuter students.
These enclosed fields will include two tennis courts and two AstroTurf fields surrounded by stadium lights and scoreboards. Aiken Fields will be located next to University Suites, where UMass Lowell bought the Notini & Sons Warehouse property after the warehouse closed.
In the winter, the courts will be frozen over to create an ice rink. Students would be able to access the field using their student ID, and the hours of accessibility are scheduled to be similar to, if not more expansive than, the Campus Recreation Center.
This $12 million dollar project was divided into two $6 million expenditures. The parcel of land cost about $6 million dollars and the construction and renovation into fields cost about another $6 million dollars. The university has already secured these funds.
Implementing a new $75 fee will provide funding to staff the fields. About half of the staffing costs will be paid to student employees.
However, in order to compensate for the addition of such a hefty fee, associate vice-chancellor for student affairs and university events Larry Siegel has ensured that some old fees will be eliminated or frozen.
To help offset the new $75 fee, there will be a freeze on parking pass rates for incoming students, a freeze on the technology fee, a freeze on the international student fee, and the university has opted against implementing a sustainability fee.
These freezes are only guaranteed as one year freezes, and will be re-evaluated annually. The new $75 fee is anticipated to be perpetual.
There were a few alternative options for this piece of property. Other than the athletic fields, the land could have been used for a $35 million dollar skating rink, a $50-55 million dollar residence hall, or a distribution center that would have required $6 million dollars in renovations to construct.
The recreational fields were clearly the best choice.
East campus is purely residential. It’s home to the majority of our residence halls and our major dining hall and central fitness center. East campus is where residential students like myself spend most of our time when we’re not in class or at work.
New fields will enhance our collegiate experiences and truly help make UMass Lowell feel like home.
Hopefully, commuter students will use these fields as a place to hangout during long gaps between classes, and feel more connected and engaged to the campus community.
Growing up in Lowell, and being a graduate of Lowell High, I know how hard it is to find open space in downtown Lowell. I love Lowell and its urban landscape, but as a college student, I appreciate this addition of green space.
I also remember how crowded the Rec Center gets during the evenings, and how frustrating it is to have to troop to North campus at 10pm on a Tuesday night to play an intramural game. The new fields will add intramural tennis and flag football programs, and be used for soccer tournaments as well.
I’m excited for these new programs, and I know I’m not alone. Our university has about 3,000 students in intramurals and 1,000 in club sports, and growing. Obviously, there is a demand for more recreational space.
These new fields will help alleviate some of the congestion and I’m glad that administration is being responsive to students concerns about overcrowding in intramural and recreational programs.
As enrollment and the residential student population at UMass Lowell continues to grow, more and more students will be able to enjoy these fields, and not be packed into the Rec Center. I think these fields are strategic in preventing overcrowding issues from getting even worse.
The administration has also maintained impressive transparency about these fields. At last fall’s Chancellor’s Forum, Chancellor Moloney talked about the upcoming construction projects and described the anticipated fields.
Additionally, Larry Siegel met with members of the Student Government executive board, as well as Chancellor Moloney and her executive cabinet, and asked for our feedback.
I hope this type of communication between students and administration continues, especially when it comes to considering new student fees and construction projects.