Year after year, funds were sought from the state for a field house, but they were always turned down. By the fall of 1986 a space solution for sports activities had been reached. That was when a “recreational bubble” structure was inflated for the first time in the area where the Alumni Field House is today. The inflatable bubble was 290 feet long, 120 feet wide and 40 feet high at its peak. This new facility, meant to be temporary, cost about $500,000.
Although there were changing faces in Albany and at SUNY Oneonta, subsequent budget requests for the field house continued to be turned down. By the early 1990s, Alan Donovan had become president at SUNY Oneonta, and State Sen. James Seward and Gov. Mario Cuomo were key players in Albany. The approximate cost of a proposed field house had jumped to between $12 million and $15 million.
The field house project not only faced regular budgetary dead ends, but also resistance from neighborhoods near the college. Residents of Ravine Parkway spoke out against the location of the proposed project beginning in 1992. Traffic, noise and dust were among the concerns raised. Of the 20 residents who attended a public hearing in January 1994, about eight spoke to a group of the field house planners, regarding their concerns.
Kenneth Gifford, project coordinator for the State University Construction Fund, said the inconvenience of the construction period would be offset by the benefits of the completed field house, which he described as “an asset to the community” that could be used as a public gathering place.
The financial hurdle was finally overcome for the field house in May 1996, when Sen. James Seward said he’d broken through a logjam in Albany to overcome financial details on the bonding authority to set the $13 million project in motion.
Construction soon got underway for the 91,000-square-foot field house, designed to seat as many as 4,500 people for events on the sports floor. The completion date was set for August 1999.