By Samantha Simmons | March 21, 2022
Photo Credit: UAlbany Sports website
The Bubble collapsed after a snowstorm left 25.2 inches of snow weighing on the structure in December 2020. Over a year later, there remain no definite plans to rebuild the structure.
The Bubble, which is now being called an air structure, was an indoor sports facility on campus located east of the Physical Education Building. Sports teams such as track and field, baseball, and club sports held their practices here. The Bubble also held four indoor tennis courts, a throwing cage, and pole vault pit for track and field events.
“The last information I had was that Athletics and Campus Recreation were working with Facilities to finalize proposals for replacing the bubble at a new location on campus, with cost and details still to be determined,” said Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, director of communications at the university.
The University plans to build the new air structure east of Casey Stadium. It is said to be approximately 135,000 square feet when built, which is almost four times bigger than the last structure which was 35,000 square feet.
Matt O’Brien, vice president of the men’s ultimate frisbee team said that his team would use the Bubble a couple of days a week. “We didn’t really get much out of those practices,” he said, because of how small the facility was and having to split it with a handful of other teams at the same time.
Without the Bubble, some teams and clubs have been left without a space on campus to practice in the colder, wetter months.
Jonathan Louie, the assistant director of club sports at UAlbany, said that the biggest challenge the department has faced has not been on an administrative standpoint but, because of the weather. “Overall, the biggest problem is the weather we deal with in upstate New York, we have alternate options but because of the weather, it limits that.”
The men’s ultimate frisbee team and the rugby team are two off-campus teams that currently have a space to practice. Three other clubs have reached out to Louie but have yet to set up contracts or reservations. The university must go through legalities to ensure that the players, club, and school are not liable for certain things according to Louie.
“The Bubble was the place that we used and relied on,” said Louie, and there is a limited amount of alternatives.
At the Mid-year Involvement fair earlier this semester, the tennis club shared how they are currently running practices at an off-campus site which they did not name at the time.
In an email exchange with Ben Jones, the president of the tennis club, he said he and his e-board felt uncomfortable responding to requests for an interview over their current practice situation because they felt it would “negatively impact the school and didn’t want to be put in that position.”
According to Louie, teams were told to build a “facility request” into their budgets for next year. “This is our new normal.”
In the senate-approved budget for the 2021-22 school year, campus recreation, or club sports, is allocated $195,943.41. This amount is not broken up by club or use. The funds for these clubs are paid by undergraduate students as a part of a recreation fee. $110 for the fall semester or $220 for both the fall and spring semesters.
O’Brien and other captains of the ultimate frisbee team looked for off-campus options with costs coming out to around $3,900. They did not have room for this in their budget and turned to the popular fundraising website GoFundMe and raised around $3,500.
“I guess it’s a good problem for the community,” said Louie, “because the community now is getting all these clubs to give them business.” But, “there’s a finite amount of recourse, and then trying to divvy the finite amount of recourse up equally and fairly to all the clubs is a challenge.”
With the collapse of the Bubble, Louie says this has provided e-board members an opportunity to develop greater leadership skills than he has seen before. “Ultimately, these clubs have navigated it better than I thought they would have and I’m really proud of them for that.”