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The Facilities Question(s)

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One of the more interesting things to develop over the past few days is the recent push to add new practice facilities for the football team. The Free Press is reporting the University Regents will vote on a new 104,000-square-foot building along with 3,000 square feet of Schembechler Hall renovations. The estimated price tag is $26.1 million.

A buddy of mine asked a simple question after he heard that:

How hard would it be to turn Oosterbaan into a basketball practice facility???

This makes too much sense.

Well, yes and no.

It would be awesome for the basketball team if Michigan did lay down some hardwood and slap up a couple of backboards in Oosterbaan once the football team moves out. It would solve a number of issues, such as practice space for the gymnastics teams, basketball teams, and wrestling team. It would also take care of the issue of new construction and be a fairly cost beneficial way of taking care of a problem that's dogged Michigan's basketball team.

On the "shouldn't the money be spent elsewhere?" front, there is also the argument that providing the football team with a new 104,000 sq ft practice facility is somewhat ridiculous when: 1) they already have a facility; 2) it was built in the 80's; 3) it works fine; and of course 4) the Basketball team has friggin nothing.

Seriously, the place is huge, you can put up some hoops in here!

Unfortunately, there are a number of other factors to consider.

First, face it. At Michigan football is King. There is no queen. There is no prince. There is only Football. If Michigan football wants something it gets it. As the major bread winner for every major athletic endeavor Michigan undertakes, anything (construction wise) that makes the football team stronger is a beneficial to every other athletic team Michigan fields. Look at the financials, Michigan will make $4 million to host Appalachian State on September 1, 2007. If Michigan football wants a new practice facility, give it to them. Until the other programs begin to bring in enough to not only support themselves, but to contribute to the other sports, then football gets what it wants.

Second, it's not as though the football team benefits exclusively from the use of that facility. According to Michigan's athletics website Oosterbaan Fieldhouse is used by a number of different programs, including:

U-M football, baseball, softball, field hockey, men's soccer and women's soccer for indoor practices. This facility is also used by the University's intramural and club sports.

It's not a private jacuzzi for the football team. It's a big goofy looking barn with field turf that  a number of Michigan's teams seem to use.

Third, Oosterbaan would require a LOT of work to convert to a practice facility for the teams I previously mentioned. And what would happen to the indoor practice areas for the baseball, softball, field hockey, men's and women's soccer teams? If the football team is building a new practice facility, I'm pretty sure they're not going to want to share that much field time. It defeats the purpose of the move if Michigan can't reduce the amount of congestion for their major sports programs that require the space.

Also caught in the crossfire would be the men's Lacrosse team. While the team currently has club/varsity status, they along with the men's crew team will be the first club teams to gain full varsity status once Michigan is capable of doing so. The team has been very successful over the years, racking up Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association Championships in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005. Any conversion of Oosterbaan will seriously affect them, not to mention the effect it will have on UM's vast intramural programs.

According to Michigan's Men's Lacrosse Site the University's plan is to retain Oosterbaan in its current configuration.

Plans are currently underway to construct a new, full-field indoor facility adjacent to Oosterbaan Fieldhouse.  When completed, the new facility will have much more space for fans, including seating for 2,000, restrooms, and concession space.  The new building, yet to be named, is planned for completion by the 2009 lacrosse season.  Plans call for Oosterbaan Fieldhouse to remain, which will provide Michigan with two full-field, indoor facilities.

What you can take away from this is Michigan is serious about promoting Men's Lax to varsity as soon as possible. The new field house will actually be a venue where the football team can practice, but also where other varsity sports teams can compete and host events. My guess is Oosterbaan will remain the indoor home for the baseball, softball, men's and women's soccer teams, while field hockey and lacrosse move over to the new barn.

So where's that leave the basketball team? Unfortunately, right where they are. Stuck in Crisler and the IM building.

What continues to surprise me is that Michigan hasn't blocked/bricked off a portion of the IM building for the basketball team. While I know cutting off two courts in the IM would suck, it would solve the practice facility issue until one is built. Further, it's not as though there aren't a pile of courts elsewhere on campus. Just a thought.

While I certainly wish the new 104,000 sq ft facility would include a basketball practice facility, the reality is it won't. And until Michigan begins winning basketball games against teams other than Harvard and Penn State, they'll never be in a priority position for facilities.