As Cooper Field closes, club sports struggle to find alternative practice spaces—again

November 28, 2022

Illustration by Deborah Han

The Georgetown football team’s loss to Holy Cross on Nov. 19 didn’t just see the end of the regular season for varsity football. It also marked the end of an era for the battered turf. As Cooper Field closed for renovations, many Georgetown club sports teams that depend on the field will have to search for other practice spaces. 

Club sports teams were caught off-guard by this closure, which they learned of through an email sent by the Advisory Board for Club Sports (ABCS) on Oct. 31, informing them that the field will be closed from Nov. 19 until Jan. 25 for turf replacement. 

The university sent out an email to the broader community on Nov. 22 stating that construction on the turf, and the steam pipes that run beneath it, would begin on Nov. 28, with the project coming in two phases. The email warned of significant noise impacts during the first phase that will last from Nov. 29 until Dec. 6, with the second phase seeing only limited construction during finals. 

The closing of Cooper Field serves as the latest in a series of frustrating setbacks faced by club sports at Georgetown. 

Mark Kearney (SFS ’23), the captain of the men’s rugby team—which had to schedule an impromptu practice on Healy Lawn earlier this semester, after a last-minute notice from Georgetown Athletics that designated their Cooper Field practice slot to men’s varsity soccer—noted that the email did not provide any clear next-steps for club sports teams. 

“[The email] wasn’t really giving us any options or any way of helping us trying to help us navigate this, it was pretty just barebones. They didn’t even offer us any support in terms of finding another field, ” Kearney said. 

The closure of Cooper Field has left club sports teams—many of which still have practices, games, and tournaments ahead of them—scrambling to secure alternative practice spaces. 

“It’s an impossible situation and they’re asking us to lose, like, we would be losing three or four practices in the fall and then four practices at least in the spring,” Claire Smith (SFS ’23), a captain of the women’s ultimate frisbee B-team, said, “The women’s A-team for frisbee has a tournament at the end of January, and that would leave them with literally no practice time from November 19th until their tournament at the end of January.”

These teams have considered securing practice slots at Kehoe Field, perched on the oft-windy top of the Yates Field House, but the use of Kehoe poses a couple major challenges. Kearney pointed out that the regulations for the use of Kehoe differ from those of Cooper Field, limiting sports like rugby. 

“Because of certain rules and regulations, we’ve not allowed to fully practice on that field,” he said, “They don’t allow things like tackling or other contact-focused drills, so it’s a pretty limited practice.” 

Smith emphasized that, given that daylight hours are significantly shorter during the winter, Kehoe Field and other nearby fields also present teams with  lighting issues. 

“Kehoe is only partially lit, and our practices are from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. And alternative practice spaces like Burleith Field does [sic] not have lights,” they said, “So there’s nowhere else for us to hold our practices.” 

The turf change is unlikely to solve existing issues faced by club sport teams, and may even bring up additional problems. 

Liam Jodrey (COL ’24), one of the captains for men’s club soccer, told the Voice that the new turf will likely be no more accommodating to club sports than the current turf, which doesn’t have lines—even temporary ones—for soccer or rugby. 

“[Georgetown Athletics] don’t paint lines [on Cooper Field] for soccer, and they probably never will,” Jodrey said, adding that club sports were not consulted about the turf renovations, which could have an impact on the playability of the surface. “When you redo turf, there’s always a question of what kind of turf you bring in. Sometimes the beads that you put into the turf can be really slippery, and they make it really hard to play on.” 

Semester-long problems with sudden practice cancellations to prioritize varsity teams have impacted club sports operations, and the closure of the field will likely only add to that. 

“Coming back from break, we have a pretty full schedule where both our B-side and A-side are playing a lot of games,” Kearney said, “We pretty much play and practice all year round, so Cooper being taken away from us is a pretty big issue in terms of practice space.” 

And without an allotted practice space, club sports leaders are worried about the impact it might have on performance. “Practice is huge in determining game plans, personnel decisions, things like that. So when we play other schools, it’s a huge disadvantage that we face every weekend,” Kearney said. 

The schedule for renovations was created to minimize disruptions, however. “This work schedule was planned to minimize the impact to field availability by scheduling it during study days, finals and the holiday break, when most sports would not be practicing,” a university spokesperson wrote in an email to the Voice. “We recognize there will be some impact on the availability of the field for extracurricular activities and have been working with student groups since earlier this semester to help adjust.” 

Some club sports leaders teams noted that despite the renovations cutting into practice, new turf might be sorely needed.

“The turf’s not in great shape. It does probably need to be replaced. I am glad that they did chose to do it during most of our winter break,” Madeleine Prassas (SON ’23), a captain of women’s club soccer, said. As women’s club soccer typically hosts indoor practices during the winter, Cooper’s closure doesn’t severely interfere with their season. 

For others, however, the process has highlighted the university’s failure to prioritize club sports, especially as many of their teams are having their best season to date.

“I don’t think we’re very prioritized at all. It’s kind of disheartening to see that especially because our club sports are really good,” Jodrey said. 

Despite the roadblocks placed in their way by a lack of university support, club sports teams are optimistic that they can use the rest of their seasons to prove their worth. 

“It definitely puts a little bit of fire in the belly to prove the school wrong, and prove why we deserve to get practice times and that we are a successful team,” Kearney said. “So far this season, we’ve proved it. We’re undefeated.” 

Jupiter Huang
Jupiter is the news exec and a sophomore in the SFS. Unironically, he’s a recovering STEM kid who has an inexplicable urge to live in Kazuo Ishiguro novels. And he will write a feature for Annie… eventually.

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