A canvas structure weighing over 70,000 pounds and costing just under $1 million will help many Penn athletes stay warm this winter.
A seasonal air structure erected over Dunning-Cohen Champions Field in Penn Park on Nov. 1 will provide an indoor practice facility for several Penn Athletics teams and recreational activities once it becomes operational on Nov. 21.
The air structure is 70 percent inflated now, but workers still need to install lights, realign a door and place logos and signage on the exterior before students can use the facility.
After recognizing the need for an indoor facility, a feasibility study in 2008 by Sasaki Associates determined that an air structure in Penn Park would be cheaper than building an indoor facility near the Palestra.
“This really is another building like any other during the months that it’s up,” Director of Recreation Programs Michael Diorka said.
Despite some minor setbacks in the construction, many are pleased with the outcome of the project.
James Dunning, a 1970 Wharton graduate who jointly donated the field, visited this past weekend and was very pleased with the outcome, according to Diorka.
James Cohen, a 1980 Wharton graduate, also funded the operation.
While Diorka mentioned some unforeseen issues regarding installing and taking down the structure, Facilities and Real Estate Services was able to temporarily remove nearby fences, nets and poles to continue the process.
“Everybody’s anxious to get this up and running,” Diorka said.
However, in order to ensure that the air structure can be reinstalled for several winters, those who use the facility will have to be educated on how to treat the field properly and respectfully before entering. In addition, supervisors and cameras will help enforce the current rules.
Athletes are excited to use the field in the coming months and beyond, especially when comparing the facility to their accommodations in previous years.
The women’s field hockey team, along with many others, used to practice on Franklin Field after 10 p.m. during the winter months.
“Playing field hockey in cold weather is really difficult,” College junior Sarah Hasson said. “When you try to hit the ball, your hands freeze up. It’s also hard to run around and get low enough on defense with a lot of layers on.”
Students may also use the facility for recreational sports including flag football and ultimate frisbee. However, intercollegiate teams get preference if scheduling conflicts occur.
“There’s going to be time to accommodate many different groups,” Diorka said. “Generally, Athletics will have the field from 2 to 6 [p.m.] and recreation will fill the space later.”
The baseball and softball teams may use batting cages and pitchers’ mounds inside the field to practice in the winter.
The 250 person limit prevents the field from more creative functions like parties and concerts.
“We’re all really excited about not practicing in the cold and snow,” Hasson said. “I just hope our practices aren’t too late.”
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