Old Matador football field continues to collect dust

Daily Sundial

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Football has been non-existent on CSUN’s North Campus field since 2001, but progress has been made to develop other projects for the land, ranging from track and field to faculty/staff housing.

The field is located north of the University Park Apartments, adjacent to the University Village Apartments and Lot G12.

Previously proposed plans for renovating the field included building a 7,500 seat stadium, replacing the field altogether. In 1998, plans were considered, studies were done, and yet talks dwindled once football was removed from the athletics program.

“It’s never a good thing, getting rid of a sport,” said Mark Adamiak, athletic facilities manager at CSUN, with regards to dropping the football program.

Due to annual losses of $1.3 million, CSUN football was removed from the athletics program in 2001.

“Never say never, but it is highly unlikely,” said Ryan Finney, assistant athletic director/media relations at CSUN, regarding Matador football ever returning to campus.

Michael Norquest, senior CTVA major, said he believes that the student body cares about football, even though they do not particularly show it.

“Football is one of the ingredients in an enjoyable college experience,” he said. “Even some community colleges have football.”

Since 2001, the field has served as an alternate site for Matador soccer. Other groups that are not associated with the athletics program have rented out the old football stadium as a soccer field.

Finney said the American Youth Soccer Organization has been using the field since 2001.

“That’s why that soccer stuff is still up there,” he said.

Colin Donahue, director of Facilities Planning at CSUN, said he believes that the football field will be needed for athletics and instruction in the future.

Presently, the short-term goals are to give the field a minor upgrade. These specific improvements to the field would benefit the track and field program. The field would then be used for track and field, mainly throwing events.

Donahue said there are plans to add throwing cages for the field and improvements to the fencing that surrounds it.

“This is our proposed plan,” Adamiak said. “We presently have core issues of safety at our main track and field site. With our existing cage, the hammer can actually go on the track. The (football field) would be a perfect site for events (such as these). We have seating up there that we renovated a little bit. It can be a perfect venue for throwing,” added Adamiak.

Adamiak mentioned that the affected coaches would approve the move to the North Campus field.

Athletes participating in the hammer events usually throw early in the morning. These early events also conflict in that there are kinesiology classes taught on the track field. With numerous events that occur on the field, the hazards of having a hammer land on the track creates the possibility of serious injuries.

“If we don’t have an alternate site to throw, then we’re going to have to practice in the morning and we wouldn’t have classes during the morning because we’d have to practice and we don’t want anyone around the track while we throw the hammer,” Adamiak said.

Finney said that the university would be liable if someone were to get hurt. So far changes have occurred already on the football field based purely on safety concerns.

“We removed the bleachers on the east side,” said Donahue. “It was safety hazard.

Adamiak said that the bleachers on the west side of the field were supported by concrete, whereas the east side was supported by wood.

“They were weathered over the years,” he said. “I’m sure if we move track up to North Campus there would be renovations to the current bleachers.”

Donahue said the cost of upgrading the field would be minimal. He said CSUN would not invest a significant amount of money in the project, and money would have to come from donor services, not from general construction funds.

Because of its remote location, most students at CSUN are not aware the field still existed.

“I didn’t know it was still around,” Norquest said.

Signs on display read, “Welcome to California State University Northridge,” “No Trespassing,” and “California State University Authorized Use Only.”

According to Adamiak, routine maintenance is still done to the field, including mowing, occasional edging and trimming.

The bleachers on the west side of the field have taken a few beatings. Large pieces of wood are placed in front of the public address system. The red paint on the benches that fill out the bleachers is chipping away.

Before the field became the breeding ground of pigskin football, it housed a different kind of animal.

“It was a horse racing track,” Donahue said.

According to the CSUN’s 1997 Football Media Guide, the field, built in 1944, was previously known as Devonshire Downs, a 2,000 seat track which housed rodeos, horse shows, and horse racing.

In 1959, the field was used for an agricultural fair on Labor Day weekends. Activities like pie eating contests and booths that sold jelly and jams were found there.

CSUN was able to acquire the field in 1967 from the state Legislature through a grant. The primary goal was for university master plan development.

The first ever football game at the field – now called Matador Stadium – was on Sept. 18, 1971, against Cal State Hayward. The team played in front of 4,500 people, but lost the game 24-3.

The field has been used as a set for Hollywood films. The movie “BASEketball,” directed by David Zucker, shot several scenes at the football field.

One prominent item that still remains is the field’s scoreboard, showcasing its red and white colors with “Cal State Northridge” emblazoned across the top.

“We were actually going to give it to Pierce College, but it figured to be easier for them to buy their own,” Finney said.

Adamiak said it would have been too expensive to remove the sign.

Still, logos from several sponsors, such as Pepsi, Budweiser, and Hammer Toyota, still remain on the scoreboard.

“Even with the dropping of the football program, (sponsors) have stuck behind us,” Finney said. “I don’t think they were concerned about it. I’m sure that they were disappointed, but it’s not been enough where they ended their relationship with us.”

Talks of what could be done with the football field are part of CSUN’s new master plan, called Envision 2035, which will encompass 30 years of long-term planning geared toward campus expansion.

Donahue said there have been forums discussing the plan and what the progress will look like as it affects athletics and parking.

Donahue said he believes that in looking at the football field, it is clear what the benefit can be in using that part of the campus.

According to Donahue, the field is a necessary piece of the campus, in that once it becomes significantly developed it can be turned into a soccer field or another outdoor field of some kind.

Donahue said there have been talks of incorporating housing for faculty and staff on the north end of the campus where the football field now stands.

Because of the different scenarios that are being brought up with the field, Donahue said it is difficult to pin point what will eventually happen because priorities may change.

“It’s not easy to say what will happen 20 years from now,” Donahue says. “We will need space and it will be designated.”

As to what happens to the field in 2035, Adamiak hopes that in the end it will be beneficial to what the university wants, and that it not become wasted space.

“If it’s for housing, then so be it, and if it’s for track and field, even better.”

John Barundia can be reached at jcb44123@csun.edu