From major varsity programs like baseball to club sports like Ultimate Frisbee, a bevy of teams have benefitted from practicing in the new bubble over Harvard Stadium during the winter.
By MADELEINE I. SHAPIRO
CRIMSON STAFF WRITER
Space, weather, focus, you name it.
The new state-of-the-art bubble over the field at Harvard Stadium, along with new turf and forthcoming lights, provides Crimson sports teams with all this and more for the low price of five million dollars.
As the bubble’s tenure comes to an end—the dismantling process began yesterday—some questions need answers.
Was it worth it? Every penny.
Is Harvard Stadium really that much of an asset? According to both coaches and athletes, absolutely. The structure has aided both varsity and club sports immensely since shortly after Thanksgiving.
Space is just the first issue the bubble resolved among many.
The facilities available to some of the most major sports at Harvard were severely lacking prior to the bubble’s installment. The baseball and softball teams practiced in venues such as Lavietes Pavilion.
“It has made a big difference for us in terms of our longer plays,” said Crimson softball coach Jenny Allard. “We were always ready I felt offensively, pitching we were pretty good, defensively was a little more of a breakdown because we would have the infielders ready to go but the infield and outfield couldn’t work together. There wasn’t the space to do it.”
The space issue aside, club teams are dead last when it comes to choosing practice locations. As a result, the squads had no claim on varsity venues and many, such as the Ultimate Frisbee team, were forced into inconvenient and unsafe spaces like Gordon Track.
Interior lighting means that these teams can practice late at night, preventing overlap with varsity sports. Now, Ultimate Frisbee shares the space with men’s rugby and gets an hour-and-a-half with the full 100 yards.
“We were playing with about half as much space,” said senior Ultimate Frisbee captain Adam Johnston. “Obviously the [track] surface is about as hard as concrete. It’s pretty dangerous, so every time you go down you have to be worried about injuries. Having that full field and the turf surface where you can hit the ground has been really good for us.”
Minimization of injuries has been key this spring, a factor tied in closely with the tough weather conditions squads normally face.
Men’s lacrosse, the first team to practice in the bubble, felt the effects of stronger muscles and greater focus when they transitioned from last year’s practice facility, the outdoor Jordan Field, to the balmy 60-degree bubble weather.
And during the past two months of grueling below-zero days, coaches and players alike have welcomed the change.
“We’re so much further along,” captain John Henry Flood said. “You can practice for the full two-and-a-half hours without guys needing to take laps to keep muscles warm. It’s been injury prevention, so many fewer tears than usual.”
“One of the things that is so important at the start is the ability to teach, which means stopping and talking about team play,” coach Scott Anderson added. “When it’s really cold we can’t teach effectively, we just have to keep people moving, otherwise their concentration isn’t good.”
And teams are already seeing the bubble’s effects on the field.
Men’s baseball struggled in the past to enter the season with a cohesive front, as it was consistently kicked out of its practice facility before season’s start.
The diamond dwellers enter this weekend with a 2-2 record, besting last year’s mark of 0-3 after its opening series.
“Usually we can never play real game situations, so that’s the main thing we’re getting out of it,” junior shortstop Matt Vance said. “Toward the end of last season heading up toward games we couldn’t go in Lavietes anymore, so we wouldn’t see any live pitching for a few weeks. Luckily now we’ve been able to see all that right up until game time.”
In addition to men’s lacrosse, baseball, softball, rugby, and Ultimate Frisbee, women’s lacrosse and football have also partaken in the wonders of the bubble.
With the influx of nice weather approaching, the bubble no longer serves a purpose, but the value of the field itself will not diminish. The hope is the structure will be down in time for the men’s lacrosse game at home against Penn on March 24. The bubble has simply made—and will continue to make in years to come—fair Harvard Stadium a venue for every sport, any day of the year.
—Staff writer Madeleine I. Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com.