Georgetown administrators and students discussed the ramifications of the closure of Kehoe Field on Feb. 2 and the potential options for re-developing Yates Field House — including building a new recreational facility and three new sports fields — at a Hoya Roundtable discussion in the Healey Family Student Center Social Room on Wednesday evening.
Director of Yates Field House Jim Gilroy said that the final decision to close the field was made Tuesday night after weeks of discussion.
“We just decided we needed to make a decision, because we were concerned about the safety of the students,” Gilroy said.
According to Vice President for Facilities and Operations Robin Morey, Kehoe Field, which is built on the roof of Yates, was closed when it became no longer safe to use.
“We’ve implemented a strategy to make sure that we test the structural capacity of the roof, so everything inside of the building is safe, but this strategy means that we’ll eventually, and as you saw this week, we will prohibit the use of the field,” Morey said.
Kehoe Field has been plagued by problems since it was first constructed in 1942 and then re-constructed on the roof of Yates in 1979. The field was first repaired in 1987 at a cost of $1.8 million before being repaired again in 2002 for $7 million.
According to Morey, the roof has never functioned properly, causing the concrete underneath the roof to deteriorate, leading to leaks inside Yates and unsafe turf conditions.
“It’s very flat, it doesn’t drain properly and a real field should have probably a four- or five-degree elevation change from the center field out to the edges to control the water flow,” Morey said. “So the problem is that you don’t waterproof to hold water, you waterproof to let the water run off. And the problem here is that the water literally stays on the roof every time it rains.”
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Todd Olson said that the university has been making an effort to find spaces for club sports to train, including the better use of Cooper Field and attempting to take advantage of nearby fields such as the Jelleff Recreation Center at the Jelleff Community Center, part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. Jelleff field is approximately a seven minute drive from the front gates of Georgetown’s campus.
“[We’re] trying to work with partners on campus,” Olson said. “We’re also actively looking around not just at the Jelleff Field in the local area and D.C. to see where we can maximize use,” Olson said.
Morey said that there are several short-term and long-term options available to repair Kehoe Field, including the complete re-development of Yates and Shaw Field into a new athletic district at a cost of $75 million.
“It could be the highest and best use of the land that we have.” Morey said.
According to Morey, the new recreational center and three new fields would be able to make better use of the current space, especially as the hospital is considering building a new surgical pavilion where the helipad would relocate, from its current location northwest of Yates Field House.
Other options include repairing the current roof to last approximately 10 years at a cost of $10 million, thus losing the field for a year, or rebuilding the roof to last approximately 30 years at a cost of $30 million and closing the field for 18 months.
Morey said that he sees the school moving in the direction of a complete re-development of Yates, Kehoe Field and Shaw Field.
“I think that we are on a path to re-imagining Yates as a new fitness and wellness center. So phase one is integrated into the master planning work, that’s the way we think about it,” Morey said. “So now what confronts us, the challenge we have, is to continue that aspiration.”
Gilroy said, however, that he thinks the most helpful solution is to perform another temporary fix to the roof.
“I just think that the long-term fix is a long way away. So I think in the meantime we should provide another field for the students to be able to use,” Gilroy said.
According to Olson, a decision about how best to proceed will be made within 12 months.
Kelsey Brown (SFS ’16), captain of the women’s club Ultimate Frisbee team, said that the field had become so dangerous that players were getting injured, forcing the team to change its practices.
“One of our freshmen broke her foot in two places tripping on the turf on Kehoe hill,” Brown said. “It’s so bad that we’ve actually had to alter our practice plans based on what field space we’re using, because when you’re up on Kehoe hill you can’t really do any vigorous activity.”
According to Brown, while the temporary solutions aren’t perfect, in the long term they may be worth it.
“I don’t love the idea of having to travel to an off-campus field, but, that being said [Jelleff field] is close enough and it’s a nice field and we’re going to feel comfortable doing whatever we want on that field, practicing safely on that field,” Brown said. “So if I can get that then, yes, I want that as long as it means that I’m having a more viable long-term solution, sometime within the somewhat near future.”
Matthew Fried (COL ’16), who also plays Ultimate Frisbee, said the loss of Kehoe Field and the manner in which its closure was handled has been frustrating.
“I’ve gone from getting full field space and flexible times to an hour and a half, like, literally we’re out there 10:30 to midnight,” Fried said. “It’s infuriating to me that this was not handled sooner and that there was not some sort of measure in place between closing Kehoe.”
Fried said that no matter what course administration takes on the future of Kehoe Field, it is essential that action be taken quickly.
“The best solution is fast action either way,” Fried said. “One of the frustrating things they said today was that these are the things they’re considering for the next 12 months — that it’s going to take them another 12 months to take action on something like this.”
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