Intramural Numbers Affected, Programs Adjust to Construction

A handful of construction projects have plagued the campus of Sam Houston State University this fall semester.

The projects include: the renovation of Johnson Coliseum, the new biology building and a new residence and dining hall, but one project in particular has taken an extended amount of time to complete and has forced a major university department to adjust.

This project is the construction of both Intramural fields two and three.

A part of the city’s Town Creek Project, Huntsville voted on renovating the fields to help with the town’s recent flooding issues. Construction of intramural fields two and three began in May in order to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

The intramural fields were labeled as one of the main sources of the high water level because back in the 1960’s railroad tanker cars were placed underneath the fields in order to help flow the water to the creek. 56 years later, those tanker cars are now outdated, rusted and deteriorating, which has left portions of the creek enclosed with these underground structures in place, while other parts have remained exposed.

Senior Assistant Director of Intramural and Club Sports Brian Weaver said that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, discovered the issue.

“FEMA, came in and they did a survey in the city of Huntsville because the city has had flooding problems,” Weaver said. “They looked at some stuff and they actually traced the problems back to our intramural fields. They said that the reason why the rest of the city was flooding was because our intramural fields weren’t draining properly.”

The SHSU Rec Sports department and intramural sports have had to pay the price for the construction, as they’ve seen a drop in participation and have had to alter their playing times in order to adjust to not having the playable fields.

“There are a couple of things that have happened because of the Town Creek Project,” Director of Recreational Sports Keith Jenkins said. “Number one, we’ve seen a decrease in participation. Number two, there are no lights at the fields we’re playing at now, causing us to play more games on the weekends and we have to start earlier than we usually do.”

Flag Football is one of the largest intramural sports at SHSU. Jenkins said that teams have dropped from the sport because some of the games weren’t going to be played on campus.

“Normally, we have over 100 flag football teams, and this year, we aren’t able to hold them there [at intramural fields two and three] because of the Town Creek Project,” Jenkins said. “There was a drop of about 15 teams because it just wasn’t here on campus. So, what we’re doing is using intramural field one and Holleman Field.”

The intramural fields were home to most of the SHSU club sports teams, such as the rugby and ultimate frisbee teams, but with construction, their practices have been relocated.

“We knew that we were going to be short on field space, so we made adjustments and moved all of our club sports programs over to upper and lower Pritchett Field,” Weaver said. “We used to have five teams practice over at Pritchett, but now we have all nine club teams practicing there.”

All construction on intramural fields two and three are expected to be finished by Nov. 1, which includes dirt flattened, lights installed and grass in place; but that’s where things get tricky.

Considering that grass in the south goes dormant in cold weather with the changing of the seasons, there’s a possibility that the root systems on fields two and three won’t catch.

If this happens, it’ll take the spring for intramural fields two and three to be playable again. However, two additional fields are being constructed over by Holleman Field in order to counteract any possibility of that happening.

“If the root systems don’t catch, it’s going to take us the spring semester to get them back in play,” Jenkins said. “Now, if it catches we might be able to put these two back into play, but it’s going to depend on the season and the root system. “That’s what pushed us to work over at Holleman and create two fields there.”

The dirt from the other construction projects on campus is being brought to Holleman in order to aid the construction of the two off-campus fields. An agreement is also in place with McCaffety Electric to install lights on the new Holleman Fields in the spring semester.

“We don’t have a lot of flat space here around Huntsville,” Jenkins said. “We have a lot of hills, so when you’re trying to get flat playable space, that’s at a premium. That’s why we’re trying to create another flat playable space over at Holleman.”

Upon completion of the construction on intramural fields two and three, the amount of playable space will be less due to the new drainage system. Because of this, intramural softball may not be playable on those two fields and may have to be played at either Holleman Field or Josey Park.

“I’m not sure how it’s all going to end up, but I’m not sure if we’re still going to be able to play softball on those fields,” Jenkins said. “We know that it’s not going to be an issue to play flag football, or soccer, or one of the linear sports, but softball could be in jeopardy.”

The Town Creek Project will continue in February with the renovation of intramural field one, which is by the sand volleyball courts. The construction is meant to line up the newly installed drainage system with its sister fields. Intramural field one will be out of play for both the Spring 2017 and summer sessions.

The construction of the intramural fields is limiting students’ college experience. The recreational and intramural programs are meant to teach students life lessons that can’t be taught in the controlled environment of a classroom, and the construction is hurting the full potential of that happening with the drop in participation.

“I believe that recreational sports, intramural sports, or club sports, enhance the total educational tool through participation,” Jenkins said. “Obviously, the best case scenario is that students don’t miss an opportunity that they’ve always had. Worst-case scenario is that we start cancelling stuff. I think it’s going to be somewhere in between, but more on the positive side.”

In the long run, the Town Creek Project will end up benefitting the community, as well as the recreation, intramural and club programs. The city of Huntsville’s flood issue will be lessened and nobody will have to worry about an outdated drainage system under the intramural fields in the future. In addition, the programs are picking up fields at Holleman, which could be used to expand certain sports.

“I think that the Town Creek Project is something that will benefit the community and that’s a very important thing for us as a university to do,” Weaver said. “We as a university need to be a good patron of the community we’re a part of. If we [the university] could do something, and have a good contribution be the outcome, I’m all for it.”

“While it might be an inconvenience for our participants, club sports programs and the entire university community for right now, I think that the benefit for the city of Huntsville is going to be worth the inconvenience that we’ve had over the course of this year,” Weaver added.

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