By: Quin Welch, Sports Editor

On March 21, Insider Louisville published an article announcing Bellarmine University’s plans to build an athletics complex near the university’s main campus. The announcement was met with mixed reactions from students.

Some applauded the idea, arguing a new athletics complex and the potential addition of a football team will advance the university and take it to the next level. They are right.

Others argued this project is not necessary for the university at this time and that the university is putting athletics before academics. They added that the university is straying from its mission as a small liberal arts college. These folks are wrong. Bellarmine University is putting its students –and its student-athletes- first by making these additions to its university experience.

It’s time for new athletics facilities. Let’s examine what we have right now. We have Knights Hall, where volleyball, men’s basketball and women’s basketball are played. We have the SURF, where regular students exercise, play intramural sports and where the tennis courts are located. In addition, we have one baseball field, one softball field, and Owsley B. Frazier Stadium, which houses lacrosse, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, track and field, cross country and a myriad of club sports.

Let’s break those down: Knights Hall is fine. It’s a nice facility and the three programs that share the space don’t have much of an issue doing it. The baseball and softball fields seem to work, simply because each program has its own space to train and play games.

But we run into trouble at the SURF and Frazier Stadium. The SURF is overcrowded. Between intramurals, students working out and events like the career fair and the Night of Knights, the SURF just doesn’t have the space students need.

Frazier Stadium is a very nice facility the university has invested a lot of money in. The field seems to hold up well and has hosted NCAA and Great Lakes Valley Conference championships. However, one facility for six D-II sports in addition to outdoor club sports is not adequate space for Bellarmine’s growing enrollment. In addition, teams that play their games and practice at Frazier don’t even have a locker room. That’s embarrassing.

Therefore, an athletics complex is necessary. I talked to Jason Cissell, Bellarmine director of media relations and social networking, about the project. Cissell clarified many of the worries students have about the project and the potential addition of a football program.

One of the most important things we discussed was the fact that facilities like the SURF and Frazier Stadium are overcrowded. This new facility will go a long way in alleviating the strain on both.

“Right now, when we do scheduling for fall sports, we have four sports that use the stadium we have,” Cissell said. “We have to schedule with everything in mind. (The new facility) gives us the flexibility if a game time needs to be moved because of a storm or something like that. It gives us another intercollegiate quality venue to play in.”

Cissell argued that intramural and club athletes would benefit from a new complex as well.

“The scheduling for Owsley B. Frazier Stadium is very tight,” Cissell said. “Especially when you look at the fall when you’ve got men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, intramurals, practice and club sports. There’s still incredible demand on space.”

Now, onto the idea of football and how it pairs with the creation of a new facility altogether. Let’s be clear here, as many students have taken this the wrong way. The university has not yet decided to add football. The design that was released to the media was created with the potential addition of football in mind. With that being said, Bellarmine is committed to building this new complex, as it should be. Tell ‘em, Jason.

“The university hasn’t decided to add football and we don’t have a time line for doing that. If we do add football, there’s no question that we need this,” Cissell said.

In conjunction with the athletics complex, Bellarmine officials repeated that the university continues to explore the possibility of adding a football program. If you’ve read my column before, you know I support the idea. I think adding a football program would bring this university to the next level.

It would attract more students. It would engage the Louisville community. It would be fun. All in all, it’s an area for Bellarmine to continue to grow. That’s the mission of this entire project.

Cissell said: ”Adding a new sport, as we did with lacrosse and with swimming, is a way to attract new students. We look at what type of student we would attract. Who would want to play Division Two football? What appeal that adds to students who aren’t going to play college football but like watching it and what sort of additional alumni engagement opportunities does it offer?”

One other common question I saw across social media when this news came out was a question of where the funds would come from to support this project. Whenever new facilities are built or new projects are announced, this is often one of the first questions that pops into students’ minds. Senior Hunter Collins summed it up –rather sarcastically – on Twitter when he learned of the project.

“”We should spend millions of dollars on sports instead of thousands of dollars on educators.” #BellarmineLogic,” Collins tweeted.

Unfortunately, Collins is quite misinformed as to how these projects typically work financially. Private donations, not tuition dollars, fund projects like the one I’m writing about.

Cissell said the new sports facilities would not be built with tuition dollars. The university, he said, would have a fundraising process to generate the necessary dollars for the project.

Folks, this is the next step forward for Bellarmine University. Whether you’re a sports person or not, be happy your university is doing what it should be doing if it is to achieve the lofty goals it’s set before itself.

BU – and Bellarmine Athletics – is growing. It’s time students, faculty and alumni accept that. And the new athletics complex – like Centro – is another way that growth is happening.

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