Cal announces $30M plans to improve softball, beach volleyball facilities

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Audrey McNamara/File

In an effort to provide existing women’s teams at Cal with facilities similar to those of their male counterparts, UC Berkeley will be constructing new and improved facilities for softball and beach volleyball — at the approximated cost of $30 million — according to a statement sent out by Chancellor Carol Christ on Monday afternoon.

Beach volleyball will remain on the Clark Kerr Campus, but the facility will be moved to a new location near Sports Lane and Dwight Way. The team’s current space includes two courts, while the new one will include four courts equipped with seating, restrooms and a scoreboard.

The softball program’s current field will be flipped in orientation and enlarged, allowing it to meet the size requirements to host NCAA tournament games, according to Christ. Additionally, the facility will feature expanded permanent seating, locker rooms, restrooms, field lighting, an elevated press box, covered batting cages and more.

“Simply put, we have a history of insufficient investment in the facilities that support some of our women’s sport programs.”

—Chancellor Carol Christ

“This will help ensure a bright future for us, and I know that student-athletes will see it as a stadium that will allow them to excel on and off the field,” said softball coach Diane Ninemire in a press release.

While this news has been long-awaited by the teams and coaches, the administration is focused on explaining the necessity of such a costly endeavor to a campus community already worried by UC Berkeley’s daunting debtbeachvolleyball_ee_file-copy

“This issue is first and foremost about our values, specifically the value the University places on gender equity,” Christ wrote.

This emphasis on morals exists alongside the school’s legal obligations regarding Title IX of the 1972 education amendments. The campus has no choice but to make these changes, or it could potentially face legal consequences.

Specifically, these new facilities would help the campus come into compliance with the third area of requirements about the equal treatment of men’s and women’s sports teams. Facilities is the first on a list of 11 subcategories that also includes publicity, allowances and tutoring.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, this requirement looks at “the quality, maintenance and availability of the facilities provided for practice and competitive events.”

“Simply put, we have a history of insufficient investment in the facilities that support some of our women’s sport programs,” Christ wrote.

A quick comparison of softball’s Levine-Fricke Field and baseball’s Evans Diamond shows that equal treatment of teams is not currently the case. The most stark comparison: a seating capacity difference of 2,000.

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“I am convinced that temporary and/or incremental improvements will not suffice,” Christ wrote, given the context of the facilities.

Given the high cost of these renovations, Christ was quick to assure the community that neither state funding nor student tuition would be used to cover the expected costs.

Instead, the planners will be turning to “undesignated bequests,” or money left to the school in someone’s will or trust without any specific instructions for its use. The athletic department has also decided to embark on a broad fundraising campaign to fill the gaps.

“I am already impressed by the interest and enthusiasm I am seeing from our alumni, who have already contributed a pair of six-figure pledges,” said Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton in a press release.

Christ attributes the $30 million cost in part to regulation requirements for public sector projects and the high labor costs for construction by the campus. As she wrote in her statement, the alternative would be to temporarily cut the softball and beach volleyball programs, a resort that she considers a non-option.

Construction on these facilities is set to start in the spring or summer of 2019. Barring any issues, construction on the volleyball facility is estimated to take one year, while softball facility construction is estimated at 15 months.

Alison White is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].