By Bailey Putnam, deputy sports editor
Northeastern University (NU) did something this May that it hasn’t done in almost two decades: made a commitment to begin working on a brand- new athletic complex.
The $26 million Carter Playground project, a joint effort with the City of Boston, is the first major construction of an athletic center through Northeastern since the Marino Center was erected in 1996.
The proposed project is, in many ways, different from its predecessor. For one, it will be an outdoor facility comprised of two fields and several tennis courts as opposed to Marino’s compilation of gymnasiums and fitness center. Also, because a majority of the land required to be built on is an existing Boston public field, the Carter Playground will be open to the neighboring communities’ recreation and youth sports.
The two recreation centers do share one thing in common, however. Though the Marino Center and the Carter Playground are both athletic facilities, neither of them contributes any direct benefit to varsity athletics at Northeastern.
The Columbus field will only be open to Northeastern’s club and intramural sports teams upon its completion. So, if any of you Husky faithfuls were excited by the idea of not having to hop on a bus and travel to a different zip code to watch your favorite varsity teams play, don’t get your hopes up.
The plan is to continue to use Parsons Field in Brookline as the home turf of men’s and women’s soccer in the fall, as well as baseball in the spring. The field hockey team will continue to commute to Dedham for their home facility.
Sure, the Columbus field project will provide an excellent opportunity for Northeastern to continue its involvement with the neighboring community. Anyone who has lived on Columbus Avenue knows just how much that field is used by the surrounding youth, and how much of a facelift it truly needs.
But to invest such a large chunk of money in an athletic facility that doesn’t include an area for our varsity sports teams to play is a missed opportunity and a misallocation of resources.
The facilities at Parsons and in Dedham are in good condition, but their one vital flaw is their distance from campus. Not only does it make it more difficult for players to practice on their home turf, but it also makes it extremely difficult to motivate fans to travel that far to watch games.
For this reason, NU home crowds, with the exception of those during Welcome Week, are very small for a D1 team. Not only does that affect the attitude of players, but it can also have consequences on the ability of programs to recruit.
When choosing a university, players are more likely to pick an academically-similar school that has great facilities on campus over Northeastern because that’s where student athletes spend a good chunk of their time. Not only that, anyone who has played competitive sports knows that playing in front of cheering fans is better than empty stands and students are much more likely to show their support at home games if the games are actually on their campus.
The Carter Playground is a welcome addition to Northeastern’s growing campus and will surely benefit many within and beyond our university’s community. It’s just a shame that, yet again, it seems our student-athletes are getting left out to dry… two towns away.