Bubblicious

Plans to renovate and cover the Harvard Stadium are welcome ideas to not let pop

As Harvard Stadium celebrates its 100-year birthday this November, it may also be receiving a gift. Administrators are considering a plan that would renovate the stadium: adding lights, underground locker rooms and a bubble—a seasonal dome over the sports ground. This innovative proposal addresses the need for vastly more athletic and recreational space at Harvard.

Constructing new facilities underneath the field and seats of the horseshoe stadium would create new space for weight rooms, offices and storage for varsity athletics. Moving these amenities across the river would more centrally locate the teams and free space in the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC). Rooms in the MAC would then be available for student use—placating demand for more exercise equipment and general student space—until the broader renovations of the MAC take place in the next few years.

The addition of the dome would also further intramural athletic opportunities. In the winter, the new lights and temperature control would provide a welcome environment in which soccer, flag football and ultimate frisbee could be played year-round.

To accommodate such constant use, and battle the frost of icy Cambridge winters, the grass football field would need to be covered after the Crimson’s last home game in mid-to-late November. The football team deserves to play on real grass, for issues of both tradition and safety, but a plan to install artificial turf above the grass in the off-season makes sense.

Care in selection of the material used in the stadium is essential. Astroturf has been proved to be a dangerous playing surface, causing a greater number of injuries for players than real grass. The newly designed Fieldturf, a synthetic that models the mobility of real grass, has been laid in many professional and college stadiums—for the sake of year-round use, it is an appropriately safe grass-alternative. But while the weather holds up during the season, real grass provides an authenticity that no fiber can match.

Similarly, a hardwood floor could also cover the grass when football is out of season—setting the stage for concerts and large events to be held in the horseshoe. The stadium has a large enough capacity to attract big-name entertainers and generate sufficient revenue to afford them. The field once showcased numerous and various cultural events—including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a 1906 production of Aeschylus’ “Agamemnon” put on by the Classics Department with real horses and chariots, and Janis Joplin’s last live performance in the summer of 1970. A weather-resistant stadium would allow for the flowering of such events again.

There are currently no definite plans for how the renovations will proceed, and the input of students and donors are essential to inform such blueprints. When increasing capacity and making field improvements, the University of Michigan also placed a yellow halo around its stadium with quotes from its fight song—an adornment that drew the ire of alumni donors and students alike. While we trust Harvard’s designs to be more sensible, seeking input first would guarantee satisfaction among all relevant parties. Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby and others have expressed concern about fundraising for such an ambitious new endeavor. This concern only stresses the need for broad input into and support for the selected designs.

And while the alterations will be greatly beneficial, it is important to maintain the legacy that the structure—Harvard stadium is one of only three in the country that are designated National Historic Landmarks—and every effort should be made to ensure that the additions are well-planned in both appearance and durability.

These renovations will sustain the stadium for its next 100 years, but rather than simple facility maintenance they should generate opportunities for Harvard students on a campus continually cramped for space. If done properly, the stadium will have a birthday present that is truly worth wearing.