Cal Athletics proposes Underhill Field as site for field hockey home

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Kevin Foote/Senior Staff

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In an attempt to solve the dilemma of where the Cal field hockey team will play in 2015, Cal Athletics has proposed that Underhill Field be converted into a Division I facility. According to a statement from Cal Athletics, this facility could be ready for the team in time for the 2015-16 season.

“We had a productive meeting with our field hockey coach, student-athletes and their attorneys,” Cal Athletics said in the statement. “… Operating with the understanding that field space is at a premium on this campus, it is important to note that we will continue to work with our campus partners to make sure our facilities can benefit as many students as possible.”

As previously reported, the field hockey team was displaced this season from its usual home at Maxwell Family Field due to construction. In August, the team found out that they would potentially not have access to a campus practice facility next year as well. Players Courtney Hendrickson, Kristen Lee and Monica Marrazzo decided to seek legal advice from Equal Rights Advocates — a San Francisco-based law firm focused on fighting for women’s equality.

When their attorney Kiki Williams found out no men’s teams at UC Berkeley were facing the same long-term displacement issues, she believed the potential to file a Title IX lawsuit existed. While in the past men’s teams such as football and rugby have been temporarily displaced, they left their facilities with a known plan and a timeline for when the renovations to their fields would be complete. This has not been the case for the field hockey team.

The team currently cannot practice on campus because none of the existing campus facilities have the turf necessary to play field hockey at a Division I level. The team has therefore had to move its practices to Stanford, the closest suitable field, meaning the players must load onto a bus for practice at 5:45 a.m. multiple times per week.

In a meeting Thursday, the players, their attorneys and coach Shellie Onstead met with Cal Athletics to discuss a solution to the problem. Cal Athletics proposed that Underhill Field, on the corner of Channing Way and College Avenue, be adapted into a suitable facility for the 2015-16 season.

“We discussed the state of our planning for a first class, permanent competition and practice facility and have identified a viable long-term solution that meets the needs of our coaches and student-athletes,” the statement from Cal Athletics reads. “Following the meeting, we toured the facility with all parties involved and the response was positive.”

Onstead and Williams could not comment on the specifics of the Cal Athletics proposal but said negotiations are ongoing.

“There’s been a long-term and short-term solution proposed,” Williams said. “Our clients are weighing their options for both of those.”

In order to accommodate the team, Underhill Field would have to be renovated with the proper turf surface required for playing Division I field hockey. According to the Cal Athletics statement, the proposed facility is “pending approval by the committee that has oversight on these issues.”

Williams hopes progress in the negotiations will be made by early next week. Onstead believes both parties are moving in the right direction.

“I do think everyone is trying to resolve it,” said Onstead. “No question about that.”

Jessi McDonald covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected].