Field House of Dreams

By Mike Phelps

SUNYIT Athletic Director and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Grimmer talks about the school’s new multi-purpose athletics field house.

For the past decade, the campus of SUNYIT, located near Utica, N.Y., has been undergoing a transformation. The school was once a two-year upper-division (only juniors and seniors) school, but is now a four-year university and becoming a much more residential campus. SUNYIT added another new piece to its offerings this past fall, when the Wildcat Field House officially opened. The facility will not only improve life for students already on campus, but also attract prospective students and help the school host large events.

The field house features a running track, space for two full basketball courts, four volleyball courts, or four tennis courts–or a combination of the three–in addition to offices for coaches and administrators, a fitness and weight training facility, and numerous other amenities. Outside the field house, a new lighted turf field with bleacher seating and a new baseball field have helped to give SUNYIT some of the best athletic facilities in the area.

“It’s a highly versatile, very spacious facility,” says SUNYIT Athletic Director and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Grimmer. “Volleyball can be on one end and a full basketball court can still be utilized. Then behind another screen, we can have batting cages set up for baseball and softball. People can also be running on the track at the same time. The field house has been a wonderful new home for our student-athletes, many of whom were training off campus previously.”

SUNYIT has also already begun holding outside sporting events that it previously never would have had the opportunity to host–to rave reviews. “The turf field was finished just in time for our men’s soccer team to host the North Eastern Athletic Conference championships, and we also co-hosted the NJCAA national men’s soccer tournament with a local community college,” Grimmer says. “We had teams from across the country here for the NJCAA tournament and the administrators from those schools were just marveling at the complex we have. Everyone was very impressed with the new facility, which should help give us a chance to host other events in the future.

“We also hosted a 36-team AAU basketball tournament,” he continues. “With the two full courts we have in the field house, plus the full court in our original facility, we have a unique ability to host large, multi-team tournaments.”

The field house has also hosted local adult volleyball leagues and this summer, the new baseball field will host a nearby American Legion team. The Legion team will play each of its home games at the field this summer and could also bring in tournaments.

Grimmer hopes to add even more events to the schedule in the future. He says the university involved the community in the planning process for the facility, so they could be sure they included the amenities that community members thought were important. Since opening the field house, he has also opened the fitness center to community members, who can purchase memberships to use the space. By allowing the community access to the field house, they are able to see what is available and might be more inclined to use the space for other reasons in the future–or even send their kids to the university.

“We designed this, certainly focused on our own teams’ needs, but also to make sure we provided wonderful facilities for the community and other colleges and high schools in the area,” Grimmer says. “At most places, the turf fields are somewhat detached from a major building. That’s not the case here, and that’s something that was repeated time and time again as something that was important for outside groups. Having things like locker rooms, restrooms, concessions, a media center, and things like that essentially attached to the field was very important. The inside and outside spaces of our facility are very connected.”

The final piece of the puzzle for Grimmer and SUNYIT will be the addition of a large video scoreboard outdoors for the turf field. The school is currently working with Eversan Scoreboards to determine which type of scoreboard will work best for its needs.

“That’s another thing that will not only benefit our own student-athletes, but also be very attractive to community members, as well as other colleges and groups that want to host their events here,” Grimmer says.

For other administrators looking to build new facilities, Grimmer suggests touring buildings at other schools to get an idea of what you do and don’t like. “I would invite them to come here and walk through our facility,” he says. “When we were in the planning stages here, we visited several schools where we picked up bits and pieces. I really think with all the different venues we’ve encountered and places we’ve visited, we’ve sort of pieced together our dream facility.”

Mike Phelps is an Assistant Editor at
 Athletic Management.