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Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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Opinion: Some athletic facility renovations aren’t a need at this time

Fresno+State+mascot+TimeOut+cheers+during+a+football+game+at+Valley+Childrens+Stadium.
Jacqueline Carrillo
Fresno State mascot TimeOut cheers during a football game at Valley Children’s Stadium.

Fresno State has been trying to raise funds to renovate its athletic facilities, making it evident with the Elevate campaign launched in 2023 and its support for Measure E, which failed to pass during the 2024 Primary Election.

The Elevate campaign, which intends to raise more than $250 million for these projects, shows graphic visuals on the Bulldog Foundation’s website of what it would look like if all the facilities, including Valley Children’s Stadium, were renovated.

There is no doubt these venues need upgrades as they continue to age, with Valley Children’s Stadium first opening in 1980 and Bob Bennett Stadium getting built in 1966. While some of the facilities are old, many of these proposed improvements aren’t essential.

Although Elevate’s intention to modernize these athletic facilities is a good thing, funding for many of the non-essential upgrades could instead be budgeted toward several academic buildings on campus that also need renovations.

As someone who has been inside the venue both as a reporter and fan, moving around Valley Children’s Stadium is challenging. It’s difficult for members of the media to get to the press conference on time from the press box to the Josephine Theater as we are obstructed by a sea of thousands of people trying to leave after a game.

It’s no better for the fans. Some leave the game before it ends to avoid the hassle of waiting for the teams to walk up the ramp before they can exit.

Stadium accessibility is vital, which is emphasized in the campaign’s master plan. Accessibility renovations include entry from the west gateway and a bridge above the entrance ramp near the south end zone that connects the two separated concourse levels.

These are positive upgrades, especially for anyone with mobility limitations.

Among these renovations are plans to include luxury club boxes and an interior clubhouse to enhance the fan experience with premium seating options. However, luxurious box options are not essential to the stadium’s maintenance.

Improving accessibility is an essential need, but are premium amenities really necessary?

Including these features comes at an extra cost in addition to upgrading the structure of the stadium.

The same can be said for Bob Bennett Stadium. There is a need for new seating as the seats in the stands are old and some of them are even broken.

There are plans to build a baseball clubhouse with a new locker room and training area for the team, and a hospitality deck with more concessions for the fans.

A new locker room for the team is fine, but there’s no need to add concessions or a deck. The concession stand located on the lowest level of the stadium behind the seats already provides enough goods to the fans and a deck isn’t vital to the facility’s functionality.

The Elevate campaign also illustrates the construction of a similar deck at the Margie Wright Diamond, which contributes nothing to the facility’s maintenance and only seeks to enhance the spectator experience.

Fresno State Athletics also intends to have seating on the west side of the track and field complex, where there are plans for a new soccer field.

There’s no necessity that’s crucial enough to justify building more stands on the track and field complex or turning the interior area into another soccer field. It would make more sense to add restrooms and shading to the stands at the current soccer field, which has seating on its west and north sides and is large enough for a sizable crowd. The 2023 Fresno State Soccer Media Guide shows that the stadium’s largest attendance was 2,102 for an exhibition match in 2021.

Upgrades to the aquatics center are only meant to make the venue capable of hosting more competitions and seem more aesthetically pleasing to bring in high prospective talents. A 10-meter dive tower can assist the diving team at practice, but it’s currently not essential to ensuring the facility operates as needed.

While the Elevate campaign seeks more funding from private donors, it’s important to note that these funds would have come from Fresno County taxpayers if Measure E had passed.

Fresno State should shift its concern to upgrading academic facilities on campus, like the Industrial Technology Building, which has seen problems with air conditioning, nails partially or completely unscrewed from their positions and part of its roof in the hallways leaking whenever there’s a torrential downpour.

The Speech Arts building was forced to shut down near the end of Fall 2023 due to flooding. Money for these luxurious and unnecessary features could be used to address the problems that some of the campus learning facilities are facing.

The Measure E campaign touted how passing the measure would have given Fresno State more money to improve its infrastructure on campus. Perhaps one of the reasons Measure E failed to pass was because of the low confidence people may have about how the university would use the money.

It’s difficult to ask for public funds when voters don’t trust you with how you’ll spend their tax dollars.

The Collegian published a financial investigation in late February that details how the university budgeted more money for athletics from its tuition reserve than any other category in 2022-23, including deferred maintenance. While $5.3 million was budgeted for athletics, deferred maintenance only got $1.3 million.

Although $4 million might not seem like a big difference to some, this gives the impression that Fresno State is neglecting its campus facilities to fund its sports programs. Fresno State is first and foremost an academic institution.

That’s not to say that these athletic facility renovations are a bad thing. It’s just not an ideal moment to think about them yet.

As a sports fanatic and former high school athlete myself, seeing Fresno State Athletics thrive and be successful is a positive thing for the university, especially for the student-athletes who have scholarships that help them afford higher education.

Fresno State needs to reconsider what its current priorities should be. Even the athletics department should focus on other things, like bringing back men’s tennis, wrestling and women’s lacrosse, all of which were cut during the pandemic.

Athletics is important at Fresno State, but providing students with a high-quality education should be the institution’s primary concern as a university.

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