By Hilary Hagerman
Andrea Raso could have played soccer in a state-of-the-art stadium with thousands of spectators watching her every move.
The second-year business management student was chased by a handful of American universities, like Florida International University and Central Michigan University. But Raso had her sights set on Ryerson, after she was recruited by coach Peyvand Mossavat.
“I knew I wanted to do something in business, and I knew the business program at Ryerson was growing,” she said. “I was more focused on what I was going to school for, and just found a sports program around that.”
But not all athletes will be like Raso, willing to sacrifice convenience and access to high-calibre facilities to attend Ryerson.
Men’s soccer coach Tony La Ferrara said a home field is key to bringing new recruits to Ryerson. There is little incentive for new players to attend the university.
Instead of heading to a multi-million dollar athletic complex, Raso treks nearly 40 minutes to Lamport Stadium for practices and games, all while lugging bags full of soccer equipment, and sometimes during rush hour. “It’s hell, basically,” she said.
La Ferrara said a new stadium could help the university’s reputation and even turn a profit.
“I did some calculations a couple of years ago when we were talking about how good it would be to have a facility,” he said. “You can generate from a soccer facility anywhere between four to six hundred thousand dollars a year.”
La Ferrara said the soccer facility could save costs of renting Lamport Stadium, which costs an average $200 per hour, and could also be rented out when not used for Ryerson’s teams.
“In the long run, we would save a lot of money, and when all of it has been paid off, then we would actually make money off it,” he said.
But Ivan Joseph, director of athletics, can’t see Ryerson getting a field in the near future, citing space as one of the major barriers.
“We’re downtown, and space is hard to find. I think we’d be more likely to be having a shared partnership with a field, or maybe we could partner with the city to have a field in the future,” he said.
Joseph said building a new field could be a multi-million project and the university has designated other areas a priority for funding.
“Even if we had the land, in the economic times, it would be hard to justify spending that amount of money right now,” he said.
But as the University of Toronto found out, sometimes it’s worth it to put more money into a new stadium.
John Robb, program manager of the arena, stadium and field at U of T, said the Varsity Centre plays host to many events throughout the year.
And of course, there’s the economic benefits. Robb said the field rents for $180 per hour in the summer, and $480 in the winter.
“We like to think it’s raised our profile and made us a destination again,” he said. “The more people we can get to the university, the more we think it raises the profile of the university.”
There has been talk about Ryerson’s potential involvement in Toronto’s bid for the Pan-American Games in 2015, but now that Ontario is slashing the budget by $300 million due to recent economic downturn, the university might be left out and plans for a new soccer facility could be crushed.
“What I’ve heard is that they’re interested in things that are going to require funding,” said Joseph. “They’re not interested in building a soccer field, or an indoor gym… they’re more interested in building things like a pool, and we don’t need a new pool.”
But Joseph said the idea of Ryerson’s own soccer field isn’t completely dead.
“If we had an alumni donor come through, maybe in the future, something could happen.”