WEYBACK: Lambeth Field represents more than an athletic arena

Residents of Lambeth Field Apartments plead for the abandonment of the reconstruction plan

op-LambethField-CourtesyUniversityofVirginia

The design for the softball field would place home base by the railroad tracks and the first base line would run parallel to the railroad tracks.  

Courtesy University of Virginia

A plan will be presented to the Board of Visitors this week which proposes to turn Lambeth Field, encircled by the historical colonnades and adjacent to upper-class housing option Lambeth Field Apartments, into a softball stadium. The current multipurpose field would be gutted, and a softball field with a surrounding facility, dugout and stands pressed up against the southeastern side of the apartments would be constructed.

Speaking for myself and other residents of Lambeth, I can say most of us are appalled not only by this idea, but by the fact that we were completely blindsided by it. The board of administrators and coaches behind this plan held a meeting with Lambeth residents last week, and they emphasized to us how this would be a historic move for women’s sports, finally providing a women’s team with something men’s sports have always enjoyed: their own facility. This is definitely a worthy cause and an important one, but I think there is a larger issue here that transcends those of gender politics. When will we be provided with the same comforts student athletes have always enjoyed? Attention, respect, deference? Why are their needs and preferences, male or female, always prioritized over those of literally the entire rest of the student body? 

In response to this concern, the higher-ups essentially said, 'Oh don’t worry, we’re working on improving arts facilities as well!' But that is completely beside the point. The point is that Lambeth residents were in no way consulted, informed or considered at all during the creation of this plan, and by the time these people even thought to tell us about it, they had already decided that it was a fantastic idea. It is painfully obvious that this entire project exists for the sole benefit of the softball team — no one wants to live with a stadium right outside their window. But there are almost 1,000 students who live in Lambeth. How many people are on the softball team? 

Additionally, to destroy Lambeth Field would be to destroy much more than just a lovely patch of grass surrounded by historic beauty. The field is not only a central part of our residential community — it’s called Lambeth Field Apartments — but also of the University community and that of Charlottesville at large. It is one of the last remaining spaces on Grounds which is open and available for anyone to use at any time, and its tucked-away nature and picturesque surroundings often make it preferable to the fratty Mad Bowl, the hectic Carr’s Hill field or the highbrow Lawn. And it’s not just students who enjoy Lambeth Field either; it’s the group of guys from Charlottesville who play pick-up soccer every Wednesday and Thursday night, it’s the Indian community members and students who gather every Saturday to play cricket, it’s the little kids and their parents who come to practice their lacrosse skills and laugh at a student’s dog trying to catch a frisbee. And many of those who come to use our free, well-kept field are minorities, so sure, you’d be helping out women’s sports by building softball a new stadium. But what would you be taking away from other marginalized groups? Lambeth Field is far from just a field — it’s a direct connection between University students and Charlottesville residents, an opportunity for them to see that we’re not just a group of rich, elitist leeches on their town — certainly not the type who would reclaim what has been made into a community space for a flashy stadium. Only the administration is like that.

In response to these arguments, the genius masterminds behind this proposal reassured us that they are planning to add a new multipurpose field for the community to enjoy — in the place of Lambeth’s parking lot! Not only is that space directly adjacent to one of the busiest streets in town, but it is also one of the most frequently used, always-full parking areas across the entirety of Grounds. I don’t know if the University is for some reason trying to drive students away from on Grounds housing, but I find it hard to believe that they would actually think that any upperclassman would want to live in a complex mere feet away from a massive stadium and with no parking options. 

Further, people are drawn to Lambeth for its quiet, secluded nature and, frankly, no one chooses to live in Lambeth if they are looking for a buzzing social hub. Pressing a sports stadium right up against the apartments is directly at odds with the established culture of our community, and in response to this point, University architect Alice J. Raucher countered, “Well, this could mean some great parties before the games.” A truly sparkling insight — students will surely flock to Lambeth Field Apartments to pregame women’s softball. 

If you are a University student, you understand why everything about this concept is absurd. But the middle-aged people who control this school are far removed from the many nuances of student life that are constantly changing. So, why are we never consulted? When will the administration start factoring students into decisions that directly affect us, the regular, non-athlete plebeians who comprise the majority of this university? I’ve been here only a few months, yet I am comfortable offering my guess with confidence: never.

Katherine Weyback is a student in the College and resident of Lambeth Field Apartments. 

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