SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Officials at the University of Rhode Island have taken to social media to raise concerns about how the athletic facilities on campus are “falling apart” and “in disrepair.”
In two videos posted to the school’s YouTube page in April, Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn walked viewers through the track, baseball, softball and soccer fields, pointing out a wide range of issues.
At Meade Stadium, where the football and lacrosse teams play, Bjorn said “a great deal of work is needed” because it’s more than 50 years old.
The press box is “insufficient” and not ADA compliant, according to Bjorn, and they’ve had to cover up a large portion of the bleachers “due to fire code issues.”
As for the track, Bjorn said it’s unusable and the asphalt needs to be torn up and redone.
“We haven’t utilized this facility in close to 30 years,” he added. “The track’s been condemned, and I have to say, our track programs are some of the most successful programs we have here at the University of Rhode Island.”
The throwing area of the track is also unusable, Bjorn said, adding that student athletes are instead practicing in another area that’s caged in and “incredibly dangerous.”
Bjorn also has concerns about the press box at the softball field, saying it shouldn’t qualify as one since it’s just a shed. Those games are streamed on ESPN+, he said, and with multiple employees in the press box, it’s a tight squeeze, especially since it doesn’t have full windows.
“We actually can’t see the two foul lines, so there’s often plays that we have to guess at in terms of scoring,” Bjorn noted.
There’s limited seating and no restrooms or concession stands at the softball and baseball fields, making it difficult to attract fans, according to Bjorn. Instead, portable toilets are set up nearby.
In addition, he said the softball team’s dugouts are in disrepair and not up to par with the level of the program.
“There’s no shingles remaining on the dugouts, there’s no restrooms in the dugouts … they’re way too narrow for a Division 1 softball program to compete in,” Bjorn explained.
As for the soccer complex, there’s no press box and no dugout for players, just a canopy over the bleachers.
The baseball field also has its share of problems, including a “dysfunctional” press box that is not ADA complaint, Bjorn said.
“We talk a lot about the greatness, but our facilities are in such disrepair that it makes it very hard to try to attract the best possible students that can compete for us,” he added.
Mike McNally, vice-chair of the URI Board of Trustees, shared the video on Twitter, writing, “The state needs to start supporting URI. State support down 37% since 1980 and the place is falling apart.”
Board chair Margo Cook echoed McNally’s concerns in a statement to 12 News.
“The video is an accurate representation of the poor conditions of some of our athletic facilities and we’ve asked the state to include support for those facilities in this year’s budget,” Cook wrote. “We believe our government leadership understands the importance of creating an excellent environment and education for URI students and will support URI to improve our infrastructure. As we’ve proven, an investment in URI is an investment in the state of Rhode Island.”
In response to the concerns, a spokesperson for Governor Dan McKee said in a statement: “There has been historical underinvestment at URI, and the governor’s recommended Fiscal Year 2024 budget represents a major increase for the university, including operating and capital investments.”
“The state has increased its unrestricted appropriation to the University of Rhode Island – from $76.8 million in Fiscal Year 2021 to $99.2 million in the governor’s recommended Fiscal Year 2024 budget,” the statement continued. “Additionally, the budget proposal calls for a substantial investment in capital improvements at the university. It recommends $57 million from the Rhode Island Capital Plan Fund (RICAP) in Fiscal Year 2024 and $177.5 million in RICAP funding from Fiscal Year 2024 through Fiscal Year 2028. This is a significant step towards addressing historic underinvestment.”
Bjorn said URI has had “positive conversations” with the state’s elected leaders, including McKee and House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi, regarding receiving additional funding.
“We are very appreciative of their support for creating an excellent environment and experience for Rhode Island students,” Bjorn said in a statement. “Our competitive success has come despite some significant facilities challenges. We are committed to providing our student-athletes with high-level facilities and have requested capital plan funding from the state to support much-needed renovations to several facilities, including Meade Stadium, Slade Track, Beck Baseball Field, and the softball and soccer complexes.”