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Pitt to build domed soccer and lacrosse facility

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Not much information out on this yet, but I found this ... interesting:

A committee of the University of Pittsburgh’s board of trustees on Friday approved spending $17.7 million on two projects, one of which will be an air-supported, domed field for the Panthers’ lacrosse and soccer teams.

The $13.2 million facility, to be built in the Trees Field Complex along Robinson Street Extension in Oakland, will enable athletes to play regardless of weather conditions, committee chair John Pelusi told the trustees at their board meeting. There also will be two intramural fields.

The other facility is non-sports related and will be for renovations in Scaife Hall.

Most casual followers of Pitt's Olympic sports probably have two questions. First, will Pitt add a lacrosse team that plays D-I (currently, only a club team exists)? Athletics director Scott Barnes has said that he wasn't interested in expanding the Panthers' athletics programs almost one year ago to the day. But that's a short-term answer, obviously. A year has passed and we're talking about a facility that wouldn't be built for a few more years. But, as I wrote in that linked article, with the growing interest in lacrosse plus being in a conference where it is a big-time sport, it makes sense for the Panthers to eventually add it at the D-I level. Not saying this guarantees it, but it's very helpful in moving in that direction.

Also consider that, per the new athletics department strategic plan that was released this week, the school wants to improve its Director's Cup standings - something I've advocated was needed in the past. One way to do that is participate in more sports to earn more points. Adding a program like lacrosse looks to be inevitable, even if it's not going to happen right away.

On the surface, the next question might be about Pitt's soccer teams needing a new home already. Those programs just got new fields at the Petersen Sports Complex, which opened a mere five years ago. But keep in mind that per the Post-Gazette article, this appears to be a single field. If you have it for lacrosse already, you might as well make it so that it's compatible for soccer, too. It just makes more sense that way and is a bonus for the soccer program. Between the hiring of renowned Jay Vidovich as the men's coach and the new facility, Pitt looks to strengthen that program considerably.

My final thought is that it would have been great for the tennis program to be included in this sort of deal. Pitt tennis plays off-campus at the Alpha Tennis and Fitness Club out in Harmar. It would have been nice to have space for them somewhere in the facility but perhaps there isn't room. Eventually, if Pitt wants to upgrade the tennis program, moving them onto campus makes sense.

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