A Field All Our Own

UVI Soccer Fields: To play or not to play?

ARIGE SHROUF| Sept. 28                                                                                                  

ST. CROIX— The two soccer fields on the Albert A. Sheen campus are not being used after being called “unplayable” which is putting a strain on the BUCCS soccer team.

After three years of planning and construction, the university is doing maintenance on the fields such as cutting the grass and marking the field.

The fields should be available to the players by November but no later than spring 2014.

The Daily News published an article on Sept. 9 that called the UVI performance field “a field of dreams deferred.” It noted the condition of the field: the slope, the holes, the anthills and weeds. The field was “deemed unplayable” after a failed inspection from the Liga Atlética Interuniversitaria in August. Without the Liga Atlética’s approval, the field cannot be used for league matches.

“The biggest impact” of that decision has been a financial one, as the university tries to “address concerns brought up in the report” said Nereida Washington, Director of Campus Operations on the Albert A. Sheen Campus.

Travel to Puerto Rico for games can also get costly, but the decision impacts the students as well.

“Our students are the only ones in the league that have to travel for all of the games,” Washington said. “We have lost the home game advantage of being able to have fans and spectators who favor the UVI BUCCS on the sidelines.”

In addition to being at a disadvantage in terms of support, the UVI students may also end up missing classes to attend games.

Some team members don’t mind all the traveling or having to miss classes. They view the constant traveling as an exciting experience.

“I like traveling to Puerto Rico for games” Ismail Yusuf, a freshman member of the soccer team said.

Without a soccer field on which to play some of the league matches at home, the soccer team members have to travel to Puerto Rico for every game. Although some students view away games as a good thing, this constant travel could affect their performance in class since they will be missing so many classes and having to catch up.

“The university is seeking to increase athletic and physical education opportunities for student athletes on St. Croix and the V.I.” Washington said. The soccer fields, one for practice and one for games, would provide those opportunities but they are not being used.

Washington said “Intramural and athletic programs are key to your experience in [college]” so the university is working to make the fields ready for use.

Despite the league’s decision, UVI officials consider the fields “playable.”

Washington said that “given the concerns that were raised, the field is not being used.” She said the fields would begin to be used by the BUCCS between November and December, but “definitely in the spring.”

According to Washington, the Liga Atlética’s inspection impacts the ability for the UVI BUCCS to play on the field” but not the university’s. Washington said the inspection “is not a requirement to play.”

“There is no required inspection done by a body in order to play. We will use the Athletic director’s, the soccer coach’s [and other individuals’] evaluation of the fields to make sure that [they are] maintained properly so that [they are] playable,” Washington said.

Despite UVI officials’ assurances that the field is “playable,” the university has been taking steps to improve the condition of the performance field.

The primary measure is a process called top-dressing in which the holes are filled in with a mixture of soil and sand. The process would have to be done either “annually or biannually,” said Washington.

The university marked the performance field and had the grass mowed on Sept. 16.

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Ronald Joseph marking performance field on Sept. 16; Photo credit- Arige Shrouf

“Everything we are doing is part of a maintenance program” Washington said, so there are “no extra costs.” The funds to “maintain a high performance field” come from the “grounds budget.”

Maintenance of the field involves processes such as reseeding, which is “recommended nine times a year,” Washington said.

It also involves mowing the grass “twice a week” physical plant employee, Ephraim Rodriguez said.

When asked to give his perception of the field, Rodriguez pointed out the fact that “there are no benches and no bathrooms, so that could be inconvenient.”

According to Washington, the university is well aware of these concerns and is working on them. A bleacher was purchased last year, although it was not put out because it would get in the way of field improvements.

“The goal is to move in that direction where all these amenities will be available,” Washington said.