Student safety an issue for stadium

Concerns raised about drop from bleachers to field at proposed facility

An image of potential plans for the revitalization of Richardson Stadium.
Image by: Supplied
An image of potential plans for the revitalization of Richardson Stadium.

Concerns around student safety and student experience arose at a special meeting of AMS Assembly that presented the upcoming plans for the Richardson Stadium revitalization project.

University officials Ann Tierney, Michael Fraser, John Witjes, Leslie Dal Cin and architect Gerry Shoalts presented on Monday and answered questions about the project.

The revitalization project will largely focus on improving four areas: lighting, seating, the field and the scoreboard, which will be a Jumbotron.

Sound and light consultants are working on the project, the presenters said, in response to concerns about noise and light pollution, adding that the new stadium will actually help to prevent sound and light spillage. Noise mitigation has already been implemented in the north field, and since then, there have been no complaints from neighbours about noise pollution, they said.

The plan includes more accessible washrooms, a redone parking lot and fixing the roof of the changing room.

The stadium will also have only one entrance, on the east side. People will be able to enter the stadium from the top, and there will be a walkway around the seats to make it accessible for the physically disabled.

Seats in the bottom rows will be raised six feet off the field, which some members of Assembly said could be a safety concern if students rush the field. As of right now, the plan doesn’t involve building stairs so that attendees can walk down to the field.

Members said this needs to be an issue taken into account, as it’s unrealistic to assume that students will choose not to jump over the six-foot drop at halftime or the end of a game.

Rector Mike Young later told the Journal that while they’re not fighting to keep the field rush tradition “alive”, it’s important for the University to acknowledge the safety concerns associated with the six-foot drop.

“There will be students, I think, who over the next few years will try and rush the fields, and if there’s nothing really there to stop them, I think we will see students hurt themselves,” said Young, ArtSci ’15.

Young said University administration understands the concerns and the need to discuss them further, based on conversations he had with VP Michael Fraser, Provost Alan Harrison and Principal Daniel Woolf.

“No promises have been made, but I do remain optimistic that we will come to some sort of agreement,” he said.

“I think most people are on board with the fact that as it stands right now, it’s just not safe.”

One of the plans to generate more revenue for the project is to offer “premium packages”, where people pay more money for premium seats.

Young said if the revitalized Richardson Stadium is being marketed as a part of the “student experience”, the University should ensure that it remains consistent and offers premium seating for students as well.

“The packages that they were referring to at the meeting, they were talking about parking, they were talking about how it involves this kind of VIP experience and that’s not something that students really have access to,” he said.

“While we understand the need to make more money and to diversify revenue so that this is an ongoing and sustainable project, we need to really be careful with how we do that, and I would argue that students already do pay for tickets through the Athletics and Recreation fee.”

Young said while he has several concerns about the current plan, the University has been very open to improving consultation and addressing student concerns.

Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney told the Journal via email that while “facilitating” a field rush was not a consideration when designing the stadium, they realize that it may still happen.

“The safety of all of our community members is our top priority, and — recognizing that students may still attempt to rush the field — we will work with Campus Security and Emergency Services, students, student constables and others on a safety strategy that fits the new configuration of the stadium,” she said.

Tierney said “premium packages” might include premium seats, parking, food and beverages and merchandise, or there may be different levels of packages with various combinations.

Athletics and Recreation does plan to offer upgraded tickets to students and other fans, and the University is open to feedback about those packages, what they might include, and what would appeal to students and fans in terms of upgrades.

“We look forward to further consultations with students on a variety of topics related to the new stadium, including student seating location,” Tierney said.

Construction on the stadium is slated to begin after the 2015 football season, with the stadium expected to be ready in August 2016.


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