Cal’s beach volleyball program will have a new facility as soon as the 2020-2021 season, the school’s chancellor Carol Christ announced this week. Updates to the beach volleyball and softball facilities are expected to cost a combined $30 million.
The new beach volleyball facility will remain on the Clark Kerr Campus, but will move to a new location near the intersection of Sports Lane and Dwight Way. The facility will feature 4 sand volleyball courts, permanent spectator seating, restroom facilities, and a scoreboard. The current beach volleyball facility has just 2 courts available and no permanent facilities to support it.
The projects must still be reviewed by several organizations, including for California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance. That review process is expected to happen in the fall of 2018, and construction is supposed to begin in “spring or summer” of 2019, with work on the beach facility estimated to take one year. That means that the program would be expected to play their first varsity matches on their new court during the spring of 2021.
“The addition of a new facility will positively impact every aspect of our program,” beach volleyball coach Meagan Owusu said. “We are thankful for the campus giving us this opportunity. Cal beach volleyball has continued to grow every year, and a new facility will give our student-athletes an environment in which they can flourish.”
While the costs of the facilities were not broken down between beach volleyball and softball, the renovations to the existing softball facility are much more extensive and expected to bring the field up to NCAA hosting standards.
The letter penned by Christ says that Cal “is not joining the athletics arms race that is occurring throughout the country but rather is working to provide our existing women’s teams with fields, courts, and associated amenities that are similar to what their male counterparts at Cal already enjoy while also meeting our obligations under the law.”
In other words: the renovations are being made to bring the school in compliance with Title IX regulations.
Christ also said in the letter that she “expects the reaction (to the $30 million figure) to be similar to (her) own: one of concern and dismay.” She blames the high figure on years of failure to spend equitably on women’s athletics, as well as ‘public-sector project regulatory requirements’ and high labor expenses.
In spite of rumors circulating that a huge university debt load might lead to the elimination of sports, Christ says that the spending is the only alternative to cutting the programs, saying that this is “a step I will not take for it stands in dramatic opposition to our values and would likely set the stage for costly litigation.”
Christ says that the new facilities will not use any state funding or tuition, and will instead draw from “undesignated bequests,” meaning donations to the university not designated for any specific cause.
The athletics department is currently grappling with a major financial crisis as a result of a $440 million renovation to Memorial Stadium, home of Cal’s football team, and the Simpson Student-Athlete High Performance Center. The university has agreed to take on more than half of that cost (they’ll pay $9.5 million annually of the department’s $18 million debt service payments) as part of a requirement that the athletics department achieve a balanced budget by 2020. Cal had a $16 million deficit in 2017, driven by the $18 million debt service.
That renovation was required to retrofit the stadium for earthquake protection- the school sits directly on top of the Hayward faultline.
Cal currently sponsors 30 intercollegiate athletic teams, the most in the Pac-12, and Christ has maintained that cutting programs will be a “last resort.” Any cutting of programs would have to include men’s programs, because Cal is using the “equal opportunities” prong for Title IX compliance.
Cal’s beach volleyball team finished with a 24-8 record last season, which ended with a 5-0 loss to USC in the contenders bracket championship match at the Pac-12 Championship.
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