Report of the Athletic Facilities Siting Advisory Committee
The 12-member Athletic Facilities Siting Advisory Committee, a combined university-community group that we convened last July, has submitted its final report. The 38-page document is thoughtful and comprehensive; it is supplemented with several appendices and a minority report from two of the Advisory Committee members. I am very grateful for the hard work of the committee members, especially committee chair David Honda, during a difficult and lengthy process of deliberation.
After 11 meetings and dozens of hours of testimony from campus, community, sports and student leaders, the committee emerged with two main recommendations. Interim President Louanne Kennedy and I have reviewed the report and concur with the committee's major recommendations:
- The preferred location for an on-campus football/soccer facility is the university's North Campus. The recommended location is near the site of our current football stadium, which has been the site for athletic and community service events for the past 28 years. The committee's recommended North Campus site also has the best potential for mitigating impacts on the neighboring community.
- Of all the off-campus sites considered, the existing stadium at Pierce College in Woodland Hills is Cal State Northridge's best option, particularly from the committee's perspective, as a temporary stadium location until an on-campus facility is constructed.
Intercollegiate athletics at Cal State Northridge can and should be a wonderful community resource for the entire San Fernando Valley region, as well as a learning experience for our students. Thus, it was heartening to learn from a recent independent survey the university commissioned that 68 percent of Valley area residents support construction of an on-campus stadium, provided taxpayer funds are not used. Likewise, almost 88 percent of Valley area residents thought it important that such a facility be used not only for CSUN football and soccer but also for high school championships and traditional community events such as those on Easter Sunday and the Fourth of July. The mid-1997 report from the broad-based North Campus Task Force, a 28-member community group, and recent editorial comment also support an on-campus stadium.
In ratifying the siting committee's recommendations, we have listened carefully to the strong and sometimes conflicting opinions expressed on this subject. We appreciate our neighbors' concerns about the potential impacts a future North Campus stadium might create for them and remain committed to mitigating any such impacts to the greatest extent possible. Equally so, we recognize the strong desires of our athletic administrators, coaches and players, and many others in the broader San Fernando Valley region to have on-campus stadium for all the various advantages it brings.
As we now move forward, the athletic program at Cal State Northridge will continue to use the existing North Campus Stadium at least until mid-2001 - until the property is needed for the second phase of the North Campus biotechnology park development. Beyond that point, if necessary, we will pursue a joint-use agreement for the Pierce College stadium as an interim site. Most importantly, Cal State Northridge will continue to seek significant community, student and other non-campus financial support for the entire CSUN athletic program, including a future on-campus 8,000- to 9,000-seat football/soccer stadium, with an estimated cost of $8 million to $10 million. This financial support is also needed to maintain the number of athletic teams we will field and to meet the requirements of our conference affiliation.
Achieving these goals will take some time. Several important and interrelated objectives that are essential to achieving campus goals for intercollegiate athletics and gaining the support of the San Fernando Valley community must necessarily precede formal plans to construct a football/soccer stadium.
First, we are committed to appointing a permanent Athletic Director. An impressive roster of finalists is visiting the campus this week and next.
Second, we will assess the needs of the intramural and intercollegiate athletic programs in their entirety, including resource and facilities requirements to support the full roster of 22 men's and women's intercollegiate teams. We are fortunate to have a fresh perspective on these issues from the university's interim athletic director, Mr. Sam Jankovich, who will give us the benefit of his thinking about these issues very shortly.
Third, we will seek to create a permanent consultative process and structure for resolving the tensions that arise in any situation in which the university's plans for campus construction or events affect the interests or environment of our neighboring community.
Fourth, with the leadership of the new athletic director, the university will solicit significant student, community and other non-campus financial support for the entire CSUN athletic program.
Given the intensity of the public process that characterized the deliberations of the Athletic Facilities Siting Advisory Committee, the third goal merits elaboration. Cal State Northridge is a growing and vibrant state university of more than 27,000 students and 3,000 employees spread over 353 acres. Because the campus is so closely adjoined at its boundaries with private housing and businesses, it is virtually inevitable that conflicts will emerge from time to time between the interests of the university and those of neighboring communities. While the university cannot surrender its mandate as the primary public higher education institution for the San Fernando Valley to external interests, the university is committed to being a sensitive and responsible neighbor and to respecting the legitimate concerns of our neighbors about the potential impacts of campus activities on their quality of life. Our respect for the opinions of our neighbors has been demonstrated by including neighbors and community representatives in our deliberative processes - with the Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics, the North Campus Task Force and the Athletic Facilities Siting Advisory Committee.
It is clear, nevertheless, that the university and its surrounding community need a more effective means of addressing and mediating the tensions that sometimes arise between them. For the university's part, there will be situations when we should simply inform the community, others when we must also consult with the community and address its concerns, and still others when we must seek the consent of the community before the campus leases or contracts to conduct an activity or event.
Despite the sometimes heated emotions evidenced at meetings of the Athletic Facilities Siting Advisory Committee, we believe that most of our immediate neighbors and the broader San Fernando Valley community are willing to come together with the university to create a future based on civil dialogue and mutual respect for the greatest benefit of everyone. We should be willing to model no less than the kind of inquiry and civility we expect of our students. Early in the fall semester, Interim President Louanne Kennedy will initiate a process for developing a set of principles and a permanent structure for mediating tensions and serving the best interests of the university, our immediate neighbors and the broader San Fernando Valley community. This is a path the university cannot tread alone.
Your comments and suggestions are, as always, welcome and appreciated.
Blenda J. Wilson