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Lambeth Field off list of potential sites for softball stadium

University Hall parking lot, a soccer practice field and the Park are on the short list

<p>Lambeth Field is no longer a potential location for the softball stadium.</p>

Lambeth Field is no longer a potential location for the softball stadium.

At a Board of Visitors meeting Wednesday, the University announced Lambeth Field will no longer be a potential site for a new proposed softball stadium. The decision comes after controversy arose over the University's consideration of Lambeth for the stadium project, which led to numerous community listening sessions between the University and students, faculty and community members.

Colette Sheehy, the University’s senior vice president for operations, announced to the Board’s Building and Grounds Committee that the administration has shortened its list of potential sites from 11 to three. The three options are the University Hall parking lot, a soccer practice field near Klöckner Stadium and the Park, located on North Grounds.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee agreed with Sheehy’s recommendation to take Lambeth Field off the list of potential locations.

Following the meeting, University Architect Alice Raucher and Sheehy sent a letter to the Senior Resident of Lambeth Field Apartments. The note explained that, after receiving feedback from the community, they had removed Lambeth Field from consideration.

“We received very important feedback regarding the proposed Lambeth Field site from students, faculty, staff, and community members,” Sheehy and Raucher wrote. “As we have continued our due diligence in studying feasibility of each location, we have removed the Lambeth Field site from consideration.”

University Circle and Venable neighborhood leaders and Arts faculty received a similar letter. 

The University first proposed Lambeth Field as a potential site for the stadium in December, a decision which sparked controversy amongst students and community members alike.

Residents and neighbors expressed concerns over noise and light disturbances and parking problems. Concerned parties launched a Save Lambeth Field campaign, and Student Council approved a resolution in favor of preserving the field.

At a listening session the day before the Board’s announcement, Sheehy explained to a group of approximately 65 Lambeth residents that Lambeth Field was not the only potential construction site, nor the most likely one to be chosen.

“We have several sites we want to explore more deeply,” Sheehy said at the listening session. “We would love to get your feedback on the other locations.”

At the listening session Joe Celentano, a principal at the VMDO architectural firm in Charlottesville working on the stadium project, presented the 11 sites being considered at the time, including Lambeth Field. 

“Nowhere is waiting for a softball field,” Celentano said at the listening session. “No matter where you go there is going to be some displacement.”

Now, the University has narrowed its investigation down to three sites.

The Board will continue to discuss the matter at its next round of meetings, which start Feb. 28. The University’s Office of the Architect will present its recommendation for the site to the Board on March 1, but plan to have a public meeting to announce its recommendation beforehand. No official date is set for this announcement.

The Board is expected to determine the site for the stadium project. 

“After hearing from leaders in Lambeth and around Grounds we believe this is a good decision,” said Christopher Hastings, a fourth-year College student and co-chair of Student Council’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, in an email to The Cavalier Daily. 

"We’re looking forward to working with the Board of [Visitors] Building and Grounds Committee and Senior Vice President for Operations Colette Sheehy to find a suitable location for the softball field that both appeases the surrounding community and also showcases our incredible women’s softball team,” Hastings said.  

Eleni Orfanides, a third-year College student who lives in Lambeth, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that the decision to remove Lambeth Field from consideration reflects the impact of student self-governance. She said she expects the Board of Visitors to eventually choose a location that benefits all parties involved. 

“The Lambeth residents fought to save the field and their community. This outcome would not have been possible without each and every individual who voiced their opinion,” Orfanides said. “The best option will be the location which causes the least amount of disturbance while giving the softball team the best opportunity to prosper.”

Karen Wright Marsh, a University Circle resident and executive director of ministry Theological Horizons, said she considered the Board’s decision as an acknowledgment of the historic value of Lambeth Field among other athletic facilities. Marsh expressed her concerns, however, about the preservation of Lambeth Field. 

“This request was met with the committee's approval but not a formal vote,” Marsh said. “Our work is not complete until the University ensures, by way of a clear and committed plan, that Lambeth Field will be preserved as a local treasure for generations to come.”

Going forward, Marsh said she hopes the University can take this opportunity to improve the long-term maintenance of Lambeth Field.

“Along with the planning for the softball stadium, the staff must also be creating the plan for Lambeth,” Marsh said. “We have spoken together — and been unified in recognizing the lasting value of historic Lambeth Field, with its iconic colonnade, green lawn and views of the western sunset.”

Jacob Bell, assistant athletics media relations director, said in an email that because the site selection process is still ongoing, Softball Coach Joanna Hardin will not be making any comments at this time.