The remodeling of McNeal Pavilion at Southern Oregon University is a positive action in terms of safety and overall operation of the gymnasium, but it has left the school scrambling for practice facilities and game sites for various sports.
With demolition set for this past August, the school had an agreement with the Ashland School District. All sports were scheduled to play and practice at Ashland High School with wrestling practicing at Lincoln Elementary. Demolition was then rescheduled in part so volleyball and football could play out their seasons on campus. Still, men’s and women’s wrestling was set to practice at Lincoln and men’s and women’s basketball was set to practice and play at Ashland High School.
But, according to Athletic Director Matt Sayre, there’s been a few setbacks. “We’ve been working with the Ashland School District since last year at this time to try and piece it together and they’ve had a change in their budget manager position and some other things that have kind of set it back a little bit, but we’re working well with them now.”
A major issue with this situation is budget, especially in the case of Lincoln Elementary as a practice facility for the wrestling teams. The ASD priced the mats at their facility higher than SOU was willing to pay, so the teams are currently still practicing in McNeal Pavilion. SOU men’s coach Mike Ritchey says the ideal situation will be to re-negotiate a price for practicing at Lincoln Elementary and then hopefully come to an agreement on holding meets at Ashland High School.
If Ashland High School doesn’t work out, however, Ritchey and Sayer both have unique plans to make meets work. Sayer says that since SOU added women’s wrestling this school year, some high school programs in the area have seen an increase in women’s wrestling that could prove to be crucial to the wrestling meet crisis. “We want to take our wrestling duels on the road maybe a little bit around the valley – and ask high schools like Crater and Phoenix and some others if they would like to host a duel.”
Ritchey has some tricks of his own. [For the meets] Ashland High School is probably ideal, but I have some crazy ideas on some things like in the Student Union with the Rogue River Room… And maybe even trying to do something in the music recital hall if it was available.”
Another option still is to have a Red and Black scrimmage outdoors similar to an event held outside McNeal Pavilion last year.
A major issue with the McNeal Pavilion project and the subsequent scheduling issues is that the renovation is supposed to take one and a half to two years. That, as Sayer said, is proving to be the biggest hangup: coming to an agreement that will stick for the duration of the project.
The building will be torn down when volleyball and football seasons end, and in the meantime, the building continues to be prepared for demolition.
The McNeal project coincides with the project for the new student fitness center, which will be adjacent to the gymnasium. Asbestos abatement has begun in areas of the building not in use for volleyball, including this area for the fitness center. Drew Gilliland, the SOU Director of Facilities Management and Planning and head of both projects says these are separate projects but the crews will convene when necessary.
While the new fitness center is being built, the current one will still be in operation, but Sayer says there are plans for that building as well. When the designs for McNeal were made, a sizable amount of space was lost; the football and track locker rooms were lost, while the wrestling practice room and athlete training rooms were shrunk. The “old” fitness center is being examined as an athletic only facility, with locker rooms for teams and some offices. It would also serve as a place for athletes to train, so the new fitness center can be just for students not on an athletic team.
The renovation has also placed a majority of the fitness classes in the current student recreation center, which The Siskiyou is following up on this week.
When McNeal Pavilion is completed SOU administrators say it will be worth it but right now it has kept the school scrambling.