The Florida International Golden Panthers have long had a problem with limited practice space for all their athletic teams. Currently, the university has only one spare auxiliary field that is used solely for intramural sports.
For football, that means their lone option for holding outdoor practice is FIU Stadium. The team's use of their home stadium for constant practice has brought up several problems including the potential for the field's condition to deteriorate, increased upkeep cost from the extra use and a perceived competitive disadvantage in both recruiting and training.
In the past decade, FIU has attempted without success to find a solution to the lack of fields. Previous spots proposed for use have included Tamiami Park and the Miami Fairgrounds adjacent to campus.
With administration writing off both locations for financial and/or safety reasons, the university began looking on their campus for other spots to put the fields.
That search originally culminated in a parking lot next to the stadium on Southwest 17th street being selected as the primary choice in December 2015.
CFO Jessell describing details of location for two proposed intramural fields. pic.twitter.com/fDOcd8X1Cn— Philippe Buteau (@philippe_buteau) December 9, 2015
Despite momentum for the original pick, a facility of two multi-use fields in a different location was recently approved by the university's board of trustees in a sudden, random change. University president Mark B. Rosenberg said in an email sent to all students and faculty on March 2 that the new location was chosen as a low price alternative to the parking lot space.
But in true FIU fashion, the altered location for the $ 8.9 million plan does not come without controversy.
Preparations for the fields would involve plowing over the northern part of the school's 10-acre nature preserve, a move that has angered the university community into fighting the proposal.
PROTEST @FIU TEARING DOWN OUR NATURE PRESERVE FOR A FOOTBALL TEAM THAT CANT WIN A DAMN GAME— ☽ (@oddbae) February 26, 2016
Why is @FIU paving over the nature preserve for football fields?— Lindsay (@lindsay_s13) February 28, 2016
Seriously, to build another football field. You're kidding me... -.- Please sign the petition to Preserve Our FIU! #SaveItDontPaveIt— Norwing Rivas (@NorwingRivas) March 4, 2016
Countermeasures to the proposed fields include a petition that is currently in circulation within the university community which has garnered over 7,000 signatures, as well as the release of public documents connected to the project on Google Drive.
Resistance to the move caused Rosenberg to issue the aforementioned email stating that the proposal will add space to the southwest corner of the preserve.
While FIU is addressing their need for space with the fields, they are alienating a completely separate part of the university community by clearing a portion of the preserve. With classes using the preserve as well as students and volunteers being able to enjoy the nature within, it seems that priority has gone to the smaller proportion of the university population in athletics.
"As a university community we are committed to research and development as well as stewardship that is good for our community and protects our environment," Rosenberg said about the university's goals in his email. "This project is consistent with that commitment."
If Rosenberg wants the students and faculty to trust his statement, he may want to get together with the BOT and the rest of administration to fix the problems that their choices may create before the plan is discussed again on March 8. Otherwise, the upper management is brewing an unfavorable image for themselves and the university.