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Mark Simonson

September 16, 2013

SUCO's Field House construction was a 30-year struggle

“Oneonta State is currently seeking a new physical education field house, college president Clifford Craven said Monday.”

This was reported in The Daily Star of Tuesday, May 23, 1978. It wasn’t the first time such a field house was sought on the campus of the State University College at Oneonta, and it wasn’t the last effort made, in what took nearly 30 years and three college presidents to achieve. The end result became today’s Alumni Field House.

The 1978 effort to build a field house was one of several, dating back to 1969, under the presidency of Royal Netzer. In those years following, SUNY Oneonta gave top priority to the completion of the present James M. Milne Library. Consideration of other projects was postponed due to a state budgetary pinch of the 1970s.

Craven requested $400,000 in May 1978 to cover preliminary plans and designs for the project. The college had proposed a site off West Street at that time and construction costs were estimated at approximately $4 million. By August it was learned that the planning funds were scratched from a state supplementary budget.

SUNY Oneonta didn’t have an ally in Albany at the time. State Sen. Edwyn Mason of Hobart said in September 1978 that he would still oppose the field house. The entire State University grew “too much, too fast,” and should “settle down” and stop asking for more buildings, he said. Mason had persistently opposed college projects of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, saying, “The billions that were poured into it were not all spent wisely or productively.”

The athletic facility on campus at the time, known today as the G. Hal Chase Gymnasium, had been built during the 1960s for a campus of 1,800 students. SUNY Oneonta had since grown to more than 5,000 students. With the growth of women’s athletic teams, the gymnasium was always crowded and many wanting to use it were often turned away.

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Mark Simonson

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