Students react to Ralston Athletic Complex renovations

Wilkes University recently announced enhancements to the Ralston Athletic Complex.

The university announced that $8 million will be used for new athletic fields at the complex. Wilkes alumnus Robert Bruggeworth ‘83 provided a $1 million leadership gift for the renovations; therefore the renovations will be named Bruggeworth Field at Ralston Athletic Complex. 

The renovations include a new multi-use turf field. The field will be used for men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse and women’s field hockey. The enhancements also include a new turf baseball field.

Courtesy of Wilkes Marketing
An artist rendering of the turf field at the new Bruggeworth Field at Ralston Athletic Complex, to be completed by Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 4 – 6.

Along with the new fields, new enhancements for the fan experience include two press boxes, two spectator areas and a scoreboard. The university also has plans for new lighting, as well as enhanced parking and pedestrian walkways.

While many members of the Wilkes community are excited for the renovations, not everyone is thrilled with the amount being spent on the complex.

Joe Gubbiotti, senior computer science major, has issue with the school’s sense of priority.

“Why are we renovating a football field for a university that has no sport popularity if the students still have to pay for parking? The administration really needs to get its priorities straight,” said Gubbiotti. “It should be students first, not advertisement vanity projects.”

Amy Kulp, senior education and mathematics major, agreed with Gubbiotti, emphasizing the fact that most students would not be utilizing the field.

“Students that go to a District III school usually are not there for the sports,” she said. “[The money] could have been used to fix some of the buildings that house other programs – third and fourth floor of Stark, Darte, the sidewalks to Evans, Kirby Hall, etc. It just feels like they are prioritizing athletics over everyone else.”

Senior management student Samantha Lisk stated that she feels the renovations only serve a small population of campus.

“It feels like Wilkes is overlooking what makes our school great in favor of competing with bigger, more athletic universities,” said Lisk. “I don’t foresee the actual quality of our student body and the vast majority’s experience at Wilkes being significantly impacted or benefited in any way by these functionally exclusive renovations.

“If Wilkes had really wanted to embolden our school spirit and culture, I believe the renovations would have gone towards student life on campus.”

Lisk continued by listing a number of suggestions, including student-run gardens, murals, and inclusive and accessible spaces. “Wilkes, in my experience, has lacked in recognizing the power of a single dollar.”

Paul Adams, current interim president, responded to criticism by saying that the enhancements were only a small part in a bigger, long term university plan.

According to Adams, the university always had plans to enhance the Ralston Athletic Complex, as outlined in the school’s 2014 – 2020 strategic plan “Gateway to the Future.” The plan, which has six parts, was introduced by President Leahy and a 20-member committee known as the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) in 2013. Within the strategic plan, there are 57 different projects.

Courtesy of Wilkes Marketing
The renovations will include enhancements to the fan experience, including a new parking lot entrance, shown above in an artistic rendering.

“One of the projects is athletics,” explained Adams. “We saved athletics for the very end because we wanted to make sure we first and foremost invested in the academic program as well as in the campus infrastructure that would benefit everyone.”

According to Adams, over the course of the strategic plan the university would have had invested around $100 million into the campus.

“The athletic piece represents around eight percent of that,” he said. “I don’t know that that’s disproportionate from what we’ve done to benefit the rest of the campus. First and foremost it was all about the academic program.”

Adams continued by giving insight behind the university’s decision to enhance the complex.

“I think [the donation] started with the relationship President Leahy and Bruggeworth,” said Adams. “As Pat and he remained friendly over the years, they would talk about ways that Mr. Bruggeworth could give back to the university because when you speak with [Mr. Bruggeworth], he expresses a lot of gratitude for what he received from his Wilkes education.”

“We had always planned on doing the field, and it was something Bruggeworth was interested in using his money to support,” said Adams.

In 2016, the university spent $1 million to enhance the complex’s bleachers and spectator conveniences. Bruggeworth was not involved with the 2016 investment, and instead was partially funded by the university’s capital budget. Adams suspects that the Bruggeworth leadership gift commitment came after 2016.

“You wouldn’t really find a donor interested in funding a bleacher project,” continued Adams. “To support a field with a naming opportunity with it, it becomes much more appealing to a donor.”

Robert Bruggeworth currently is employed as the president and chief executive officer of Qorvo, a communications chipmaker in Greensboro, N.C. While at Wilkes, Bruggeworth played as goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team.

According to Wilkes magazine, Bruggeworth has been an annual benefactor for the athletics program at the university. The field is being established in honor of his late mother.

The construction is currently underway. The new Bruggeworth Field will be dedicated during Homecoming weekend, Oct. 4 to 6.