Zach Thomann, Sports Editor
Utica College has once again pushed back the grand reopening date for the Todd and Jen Hutton Sports and Recreation Center. The new target date is now Feb. 24, which puts spring sports teams in a tough position for the beginning of the season.
When students left campus for winter break in mid-December, UC was hoping construction would be finished by the time they came back, according to Athletic Director David Fontaine.
“The target moves,” Fontaine said. “There have been so many expected dates and it has been dictated by the weather. I’m hoping it is officially opened by March 1.”
Fontaine said that the turf and lights where finished over break, but the cold weather set the deadline back. In order to continue the water mitigation system on the concrete floors, the temperature had to be at least 50 degrees inside.
“There are always certain nuances that delay things,” Fontaine said.
The track is the next project to be finished, Fontaine explained. After that, fensing for the weight room, along with necessary equipment, will have to be ordered and placed.
“We’re hoping that everything will run smoothly and that the crews will be here so it’s all done by our deadline,” he said.
Spring sports are set to start practicing, and with the change in the reopening date of the dome teams will have to make other arrangements.
“We will try our best to make sure the turf is plowed so men’s and women’s lacrosse can practice outside,” Fontaine said. “Baseball and softball will have to use the athletic center and possibly the turf in the dome while construction goes on.”
The track team has gone through the most hardship over the past year. Head coach Eric Parker is happy to see progress in the dome, but has struggled to get his whole team under one roof.
“We have been missing the team chemistry component this year because nobody is practicing at the same time,” Parker said. “Hopefully, now we can come back together as a team.”
The team started using the turf inside the dome this past week and have mapped out an oval with cones to symbolize the distance runners would travel around a track. Parker explained that the surface is different than athletes may be used to, but is happy to start workouts indoors.
“Being able to get in the dome and have a large part of the team together is extremely exciting,” Parker said.
The team still travels to Hamilton College to cover events that Utica has not made available. These events include pole vault and long jump, which Parker believes the team would struggle at without Hamilton’s efforts to help the program.
“Hamilton College has been fantastic with giving us opportunities to use its facilities,” he said. “Without their help and cooperation, this program would be suffering.”
Parker said his team team has been understanding and resilient, but a change in the reopening date has forced the team to cancel four home meets planned in January and February. The Pioneers now plan to compete in Middlebury, Vermont in January and travel to Ithaca College in February.
“We can go out and compete anywhere,” Parker said. “If anything, this makes us more road savy and more prepared for the Empire 8 and Atlantic Region meets.
According to the coach, the team will not be hurt by the lack of home meets but wishes the dome could have been finished in time.
“The group I really feel bad for is the seniors,” Parker said. “They aren’t going to get their recognition for competing for four years that we normally do every season.”
Parker said the team enjoyed the month off during break, and the team is not concerned about when the dome will be officially opened.
Fontaine also enjoyed the break when the dome received its first test of fighting off inclimate weather.
“The dome is still standing,” Fontaine said. “The last two weeks of break were a test with snow or sleeting rain and having large temperature swings.”
One day in particular, Fontaine recalls 8” of snow landing on the Dome that “seemed to melt quickly.” He is hopeful that the disaster that happened over winter break last year will never happen again.
Now, the college is focused on finishing construction and forgetting about the previous year’s hardships.
“We’re on our way,” Fontaine said. “The frustrating part is the time it takes. There are little things that people don’t see. Their biggest concern is when it is going to open and when they can get in there. We’re hoping that is really soon.”