If CSUN and CSU officials commit themselves to dramatic facilities renovation and construction plans in the next five years, will students and community members respond in a way that makes such a move fiscally responsible? In a state that lets the Department of Finance and the Legislature’s minority members determine the validity of every single purchase – pens, Post-It Notes, new stadiums – this is a complicated issue.
It all comes down to one question: If you build it, will they come?
Right now, members of a Blue Ribbon Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics at CSUN are contemplating what direction to take our athletic program in the next five years. Like any problem at this university, a “special group” has been formed to address the issue and get feedback from students, staffers, athletes themselves, etc.
From the sounds of it, however, plans to construct a new indoor athletic facility to replace the beleaguered “Matadome,” a high school gym located inside Redwood Hall, are not on the horizon. What is more likely are less extensive renovations to existing facilities, including the Matadome, Matador Soccer Field, the baseball field, and whatever else.
This move is not just financially motivated, although that’s part of it. Rather, CSUN President Jolene Koester and CSU officials have placed a new Valley Performing Arts Center at the top of their fundraising agenda. The direction we’re going with new facilities – new VPAC, old/renovated Matadome – is a deliberate choice by university and CSU officials, not a hamstringed financial decision.
The reasoning is that if CSUN is going to continue to be the “intellectual, economic and cultural heart of the San Fernando Valley and beyond,” we need to develop a state-of-the-art facility to execute our assumed position as a Valley trendsetter.
Simply put, many students don’t care about building a new PAC. In fact, lots of us don’t care, and can’t figure out why a sign is already in place for a facility so far away from its completion date. As many in the College of Arts, Media, and Communication can attest, students probably would be happy with maintaining whatever shrinking programs they already have, not look forward to expansion in the midst of an openly mocked budget crunch.
But many students don’t care about building a new indoor athletics facility, either. That’s another stark reality athletic boosters and athletes need to face.
So with students apathetic about both, policymakers like Koester ‘ Co. have to step in, and justifiably so. But with no student weight to either agenda items, the decision to build a new PAC and not a new indoor multipurpose facility is arbitrary. Yes, pleasing the community with a new opera or ballet venue does have real value, but not for many students.
As has been argued on these grey pages over and over again, a new multi-use facility that can cater to both athletic and artistic events is needed. As other schools have proven time and time again, we don’t need $100 million for this new venue, nowhere close to that, in fact. Sure, KCSN might need to stay up in Student Housing and there may be a few less pianos in the new facility, but at least we have a venue on campus that gives an apathetic student body both options, and neither arbitrarily.
Again, if the CSU builds it, will students come? Sometimes planning for the future involves question marks. The CSU’s entire transition to Year-Round Operations is predicated on this principle: Will student behavior change for summer term? But at the end of the day, the next time someone posits the “Field of Dreams” analogy, I’m going to make sure they’re talking about the new VPAC, and not just the “Matagym.”
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.