The intramural fields located behind the University of Miami’s Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center have served as an open space to students for several years. Sports teams such as soccer, ultimate frisbee, spikeball, flag football and many others come together on these fields, providing students with the opportunity to stay active and interact with their peers.
Freshman Ryan Appleby, a business management major, has played intramural soccer for the past two semesters.
“I enjoy the team aspect and playing with friends,” he said about the sport. “Winning is nice too.” Appleby said he hopes to continue playing IM soccer as he continues his college career at UM.
However, construction crews have replaced soccer teams on the fields and forced all IM sports to a halt. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Herbert Wellness Center in 2016, the fields are currently undergoing a major, multi-million dollar renovation that aims to enhance the efficiency, safety and overall experience of the space while still preserving its basic purpose.
“This is the first time the outdoor fields behind the Wellness Center will be completely renovated,” said executive director of the Herbert Wellness Center, Scott Levin. According to Levin, the upgrades are not only meant to improve various aspects of the fields but to also make way for the next phase of UM housing: the Centennial Village, which is supposed to replace Hecht Residential College by 2024.
The project aims to correct some major operational problems of the fields, altering its topography in hopes of preventing the collection of rainwater in low areas, allowing for better drainage and providing a more organized irrigation system. Along with these changes, the current field lights will be replaced with energy-efficient LED lights, cutting the Herbert Wellness Center’s energy usage by up to 50 percent.
“All of this means a safer environment, less downtime and more opportunities for maximizing usage for our intramural and club sport programs,” said Levin.
Crews will also replace the field’s sod with the same turf that is used on the UM athletic fields. This grass is designed for humid temperatures and constant play and is scheduled to be installed in mid-July, Levin said.
But not everybody is happy about the renovations. Some people who regularly use the fields are upset that the construction has disrupted their ability to play IM sports.
Senior Dan Abrams, a math and physics double major and president of the rugby club, said the construction has been detrimental to his team. He said his team was not well-informed about when the construction would occur or how it would affect their practice schedule.
“I wasn’t given any specifics or updates once April came around, so whenever we practiced, we had to be very on the ball because we never knew when construction was starting,” he said. “Eventually, one day we were practicing and got kicked off the field for construction even though there was none taking place that day.”
Abrams said his team has not been given any practical alternatives as to where they can play rugby while the fields undergo construction.
Nonetheless, site work is already underway and “the new fields will be ready to play on Labor Day,” slightly after the beginning of fall semester but just in time for the start of fall outdoor intramural and club sports season, Levin said.
Although the site contractor has taken into consideration possible delays in the construction schedule, “it is critical that the new sod has time to become rooted before we begin playing sports on the fields,” Levin said. “The more time, the better for the long term.”
Sean Griffin, a junior majoring in biochemistry who participates in IM ultimate frisbee, said he believes that “the updates are much needed for the IM fields. Putting turf on the fields would greatly improve their quality.”
Appleby agrees that the renovations will provide necessary improvements to the fields but said, “I’m very skeptical of turf. I’ve never been a big fan, but if it works, then I’m okay with it.”
Similar to Abrams, Appleby sees the construction as somewhat inconvenient. “I do wish they didn’t start now as I would still like to use the field.”