Meeting with President Troy VanAken this summer in order to talk with him about parts of the administration's strategic plan for the future at EC and how it relates to athletics was an exciting experience.
I was able to sit down with him and learn about this potential dome that I had heard many rumors about, in addition to seeing pictures of what the dome would look like and how it would work.
Immediately upon hearing about the plan, I was all for it. The manner in which a dome would benefit the baseball and softball programs (who I believe have the worst facilities on campus) really impressed me and although the plan did nothing to improve the conditions of the fields those teams play on, it represents progress for the athletic department.
However, the more I thought about the entire plan, the more doubts I had and after discussing the prospect of a dome at EC with various members of the campus community, I have come to the conclusion that it is not the right course of action for the school to take.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel that the school needs to do something to reinvigorate the athletic department, but the problem I see with the dome is that it does not address many of the primary issues that the athletic department is facing.
Yes, it will clear out space in the field house, but it fails to address the field house itself, or the baseball field, or the softball field for that matter.
When I have spoken with faculty regarding this issue, there was a general reluctance to the idea of the school investing heavily in athletics. While nobody trivialized the need for improved sports facilities, there were clearly more important issues on their minds.
Knowing this, I fear that EC will only have one shot at improving their athletic facilities in the near term future and if EC is going to make a multi-million dollar investment in athletics, it is extremely important that it does it the right way.
When visiting campuses around the CCIW, it is easy to recognize the difference between the athletic facilities that EC’s opponents have access to and the facilities on campus in Elmhurst.
At North Central College, the Cardinals are able to weight train in their fitness center, as well as their dedicated weight room (featured inside their indoor track). If the weather is nice, they can head outdoors to the main track or even hit the pool.
At Wheaton College, students once again have access to a pool, weight room, and track; however, Wheaton students can also use the dance studios and rock climbing wall found inside their $15 million sports center.
All of that is to say nothing about the football stadiums and baseball fields that these schools play at, nonetheless, it is difficult to compare these large scale facilities to those found at EC.
Simply put, investing around $3 million in a temporary training dome is merely a band-aid solution to a much larger problem. In fact, I would say that it is ultimately a waste of money when it is obvious that the real problem that EC is trying to solve is the field house itself.
And while all of these projects come with ridiculously large price tags, this seems to be the cost of competing in the CCIW and if EC is at all serious about sports, it needs to give athletes a reason to come to Elmhurst.
Whether that reason is a new field house, improved outdoor playing fields or something more creative, the idea of a dome just does not do it for me.
It may take longer to find the right donor and collect enough funding to compete with the North Central’s and the Wheaton’s of the world, but that is what needs to be done if the Bluejays ever hope to consistently compete among the elite teams in the CCIW.