QU moves forward with Title IX field construction

By on November 20, 2015
_MLM6033Megan Maher | The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Quinnipiac is scrapping its plans to put lighting on several athletic fields on the Mount Carmel campus so that it can upgrade these facilities more quickly, according to Sal Filardi, vice president for facilities and capital planning.

The university must improve several athletic fields on the Mount Carmel campus and build an indoor track and field facility by June 30, 2018. These plans have been slowed several times as Quinnipiac awaits approval from Hamden to work on these facilities.

Quinnipiac was ordered to build these facilities in 2013 after it settled a Title IX lawsuit that arose in 2009 after the university tried to eliminate the women’s volleyball team. A judge ruled Quinnipiac could not get rid of the volleyball team because then it would not provide equal opportunities for women athletes, which is against the federal law Title IX. By law, the number of female and male athletes has to be proportional to the female-to-male ratio at the university.

The judge found the university was not in compliance with Title IX, so it had to make several changes in athletics in order to obey the law. These changes included giving more scholarships to female athletes, paying coaches of women’s teams more and adjusting the tiering of some teams. The university also created a strength and conditioning facility and converted part of an office suite on the second floor of the Mount Carmel Athletic Center into a new varsity locker room.

Jeffrey Orleans, the court-appointed “referee” who works with the university to make sure it is following the decree, said in a July 2015 report that Quinnipiac is making good headway to abide by the law.

“I believe that Quinnipiac has continued to progress in operating its athletics program gender-equitably and accountably, as the Decree requires,” Orleans wrote. “And that specific actions taken during this year, and that will be undertaken this summer, will provide for further substantial change beginning with the 2015-16 academic year this fall.”

But the university still has to spend $5 million to improve facilities, other than the T.D. Bank Sports Center, used by female athletes. In April 2014, Hamden’s Inland Wetland Commission denied the university’s original plan to upgrade the lacrosse, soccer and field hockey fields.

After a redesign, the commission approved the university’s new plan in January 2015 as long as the university did not use crumb rubber for the turf or have lights that were more than 35 feet tall. Assistant Town Planner Dan Kops said the commission believed the chemicals from crumb rubber could get into the water and high lights could disrupt the fauna in the wetland.

But as for the lights, Filardi said they have to be higher than 35 feet.

“There are no sports lighting poles that are only 35 feet,” Filardi said. “They have to be higher just because of the geometry of the light.”

Filardi said the reason the university wanted to put lights on the field was because Orleans believed there should be lights.

“[Orleans] told us it would be his opinion that the decree states that we have to build superior facilities and it’s his opinion that…a superior facility would have to have lights,” Filardi said.

The university took its case to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in October. The ZBA denied the university’s application too because it felt the university did not properly show why the lights were needed to fulfill the Title IX settlement.

“The Zoning Board of Appeals felt they had not heard evidence that the fields couldn’t be used properly in a way that would meet requirements of Title IX without lights,” Kops said.

Now the university intends to build the fields without the lights, according to Filardi.

“I think we’re going to go back [to Orleans] and say we couldn’t get the lights approved but we’re going to build the fields so at least we have that and hopefully we can add lights in the future,” Filardi said.

The goal for completion of the fields is the fall of 2017, according to Filardi. Construction for the fields is expected to begin during the summer of 2016 and to be completed during the summer of 2017, just in time to officially open for September of 2017.

Kops said the university’s application is a complicated one because of its many different components, including it is in a wetland area, the lights, perceived traffic issues and the fact that it is in a wetland area.

“With the renovation of the fields, the expansion of the spectator facilities, it’s going to theoretically increase the crowds that would come to watch the games,” he said. “So the commission has to look at the impact on neighboring properties among those things.”

And since it is a “significant” application, Kops said, it will likely take three to four months for the university to go through the special permit process with the Planning and Zoning Commission. This means QU could get a decision from the Planning and Zoning Commission by early or late spring, Kops said, depending on how soon the university submits its plan. 

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 5.47.13 PMKristen Riello

Comments

About Julia Perkins and Tara ONeill