In its heyday in the 1940s, Kehoe Field served as home for a record-winning football team that garnered invitations to the prestigious Orange and Sun Bowls. But now the field — perched on the roof of the Yates Field House since 1979 — languishes unused after decades of neglect, its rough-hewn surface deemed too dangerous for varsity athletes for the last 10 years.
Until February 2016, however, intramural and club athletes still coveted the turf for practice, despite the field being riddled with cuts, bump and potholes. Yet safety concerns prompted the university to shutter Kehoe Field and force club sports, as well as intramural and recreational activities, to share Cooper Field for practices, with no scheduled resolution in sight.
Thus far, the university has weighed two options for renovation: a 10- to 15-year wait for complete “athletic district redevelopment,” or a short-term renovation of Kehoe that would extend the field’s lifespan for another 10 years after 12 to 18 months of construction. For the sake of club and intramural teams on campus, the university should pursue the latter expedited option, or else they risk decimating the vibrancy and variety of non-varsity athletic opportunities on campus.
Other than Cooper Field, club sports have compensated their lack of practice terrain with fields at local high schools, such as the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. However, Georgetown Prep slashed the total available practice hours for Georgetown teams from 120 last fall to 30 this semester, and none of the schools offer field lighting, restricting practice to daylight hours only.
The inconsistency of available times, along with their off-campus locations, have deterred participation in these club sports, causing attendance and recruitment numbers to dwindle for teams such as the Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Club, according to reporting in The Hoya. Already, many teams have expressed their indignation at Kehoe Field’s closing and the university’s protracted schedule for its renovation with a petition last spring.
The lack of field accessibility for such sports impedes many students from partaking in activities that are integral to their university experience. For many who cannot or would prefer not to tackle the rigor of varsity athletics, these sports provide more than just exercise: They are a respite from the stresses of academic life and an opportunity enter a team-based community. The elimination of Kehoe Field delivers not just a blow to the student groups that depend on the terrain for practice, but also to students whose participation in clubs sports is formative to their college identity.
Georgetown’s evident lack of preparation for the closure of Kehoe Field is also alarming since the university acknowledged the dangerous conditions of the field over the past decade, yet provided little sustained effort to resolve its problems. The fact the field was able to devolve into such a state of disrepair in the first place demonstrates negligence on the part of university officials, signaling the subordination of club and intramural sports within the university’s priorities.
The university should pursue the expedited renovation of Kehoe to restore the space for student use. Georgetown has already completed a feasibility study of the short-term renovation, but has not pursued the critical design study phase of the operation. This step, while costly, is imperative for the restoration and should be completed with all due expediency to commence the project.
In addition to the reconstruction of Kehoe, the university needs to address the issue of field accessibility for club teams by securing spaces that offer lighting during regularly scheduled practice.
Georgetown also ought to investigate which institutional flaws led to the negligence of Kehoe Field. The fact that a top American research university like Georgetown allowed one of its main recreational fields to deteriorate to a point where it tangibly threatened the safety of students and remained in that condition for over a decade warrants administrative scrutiny.
In addition to restoring the space as quickly as possible and providing students with viable alternatives for practice as they await the construction, the university must do everything in its power to ensure that non-varsity athletics are not a casualty of the deterioration of Kehoe Field.
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