Editorial: UCR should rethink C-Center move

Brandy Coats/HIGHLANDER
Brandy Coats/HIGHLANDER

When UCR announced its intention to build a sports complex called the C-Center, it was a step in the right direction. Not only would the stadium house upwards of 6,000 people, but it would also allow businesses to rent out space in the facility, and would be accompanied by an adjacent parking structure to help facilitate the increase in traffic.

The campus community is poised to benefit in numerous ways from the construction of the C-Center. The university’s athletics program would have a spacious, brand-new building to house competitive games, raising the profile of UCR’s sports programs. More students would come to watch athletic events, revitalizing the campus and triggering greater student interest. Businesses would experience increased foot traffic and sales from students venturing beyond their dorm rooms and apartments on weekends. The limited parking space currently available would be expanded, resolving a qualm many commuters have had with UCR. In addition, the investment would create jobs for construction workers and likely facilitate the creation of student jobs once the facility reaches completion.

Given all the benefits the C-Center would bring to campus, it would make sense to construct it somewhere close to the heart of UCR. Original plans had called for it to replace the aging structure of Bannockburn Village. The result would have been a shiny new sports complex only a five minute walk from pretty much everywhere on campus.

But apparently those plans have been changed. Instead of building the C-Center as close to campus as possible, UCR has decided to construct the student sports facility as far from the students as possible. Instead of building it at Bannockburn, or some other reasonably close location, the C-Center is now slated to be built beyond the freeway overpass, past the wide expanse of Lot 30 and through the campus orange groves to the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Iowa Ave.

This new location has none of the features that made the Bannockburn location so enticing. Most prominently, it is much further away from campus than its spurned alternative. Distance may not seem like a major factor, but for students whose main mode of campus transportation is by foot, the increase in distance is substantial. Going to a game would become less of an enjoyable activity to do on the weekend and more of an additional hurdle to overcome. With all the good the C-Center can do for UCR, why limit its potential by banishing it to the campus badlands?

It is true that the most dedicated fans will still turn out regardless of the C-Center’s location. But that’s precisely the situation UCR finds itself in right now. If UCR wants to build its athletics program and a sense of campus community, it needs to encourage fair-weather followers of UCR sports to take the first step by attending a sports game. Isolating the C-Center from the rest of campus serves to only counteract the goals it is otherwise supposed to work toward.

Situating the C-Center at the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Iowa Ave. raises another question: that of safety. With the large number of crimes close to campus proving to be a seemingly unsolvable puzzle, UCR students have had to factor in the potential threat of crime, and understandably avoid the locations that have reputations for experiencing high crime rates. The corner of Iowa Ave. is one such place.

This is made all the more relevant by the fact that many sports games finish around 9:00 p.m.—well after the sun sets in both summer and winter. Walking from Iowa Ave. back to an apartment 15 minutes away under the darkness of night is not an exciting proposition for most everyone.

If UCR is intent on following through on this relocation, it must provide the means for swift and safe travel to and from the UCR campus and the C-Center. A light-rail train transportation system or an expansion of the campus trolley service would be absolutely vital if the C-Center is to gain any sense of viability at its new location. Even then, there should be other things for students to do in the immediate vicinity of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Iowa Ave., and UCR would have to build out that area to make the trip more enticing for students.

But it would be far easier, simpler and cheaper to return to the original plan that would situate the C-Center at Bannockburn Village. There would be no need to institute a trolley system because students would be close enough to simply walk to and from the C-Center—no public transit necessary. This would also allow students to feel safer, since there is less distance to traverse at night and the areas with the worst crime can be bypassed almost entirely.

Some may say that the Bannockburn location does not have the space necessary to accommodate a large number of people and their cars. But Bannockburn is deceptively large, and it could surely fit a stadium that holds only 6,000 occupants. In addition, there are no rules against building upward. In fact, doing so may serve to make the C-Center even more noticeable by people travelling on the freeway.

Bannockburn holds a special place in the heart of UCR, as it is home to businesses that UCR students, faculty and staff have frequented for decades. But these businesses can live on without Bannockburn. Businesses that are currently housed in Bannockburn could just as easily be offered lodging in the commercial spaces of the new C-Center. And with more student traffic, they will undoubtedly become even more popular and make more money.

Even Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Brian Wickstrom has admitted that the Martin Luther King location was “not my first choice at all.” If the athletics director has reservations about the location change, UCR should at the very least reconsider the original plan.

Does UCR need a better sports center? The answer is most certainly yes. Must it be built far from campus life, in the middle of an asphalt- and dust-filled desert? We hope the answer is no.

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