Ambler Campus sits as a rural paradox to Main Campus, approximately a 35-minute drive away in a bustled section of North Philadelphia.
It houses facilities for Temple’s baseball, soccer and softball programs that, to unseen eyes, may be mistaken for a nice-looking high school athletic facility. Adding to that is the commute, which certainly factors in as a hindrance to all of Ambler’s tenants.
Besides those sports, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams may not even have a home facility next year if the university’s plans go through to build a Main Campus library and demolish the Student Pavilion.
In the midst of Temple’s move to the newly branded American Athletic Conference next fall, the Owls will be pitted against some schools boasting larger programs and more glamorous athletic stomping grounds for their respective teams.
The baseball team practices and plays all home games at Ambler’s Skip Wilson Field. The field’s seating capacity is listed at 1,000 and features two sets of metal bleachers on each base-side with no stadium lighting.
All baseball programs in The American next year including the additions to conference before 2015 – feature permanent seating exceeding capacities of at least 1,500 and all include lights.
“I think, from a facility standpoint, we are near the bottom of baseball fields of schools in [The American],” coach Ryan Wheeler said. “I know the university and the athletic department wants to get us to the point where we’re in the middle of the pack. We’re not going to have the money to fund a facility that puts us at the top, but they don’t want to put us at the bottom either.”
Wheeler’s club has struggled as of late, and the second-year coach believes his team will need improved facilities all around in order to help boost his program to a competitive level within the new conference.
“I’m hopeful that conference change allows us to upgrade our facility,” Wheeler said. “Moving to the conference that we’re going to and some of the facilities that some of these other programs have, we need some major upgrades. The type of money we need to get that done, I don’t know if I can raise that kind of money. I hope the university can do something to help us out with that.”
Like baseball, the soccer teams play on a field at Ambler without field lighting.
“Obviously, they’re going to need to improve our facilities,” men’s soccer coach Dave MacWilliams said. “Most of all soccer stadiums, they have lights. We’re the only ones that don’t have lights right now. [The Temple athletic department] has spoken about it and they’re definitely going to have to upgrade the facilities so we can compete at this new level.”
The soccer field features metal bleachers that seat a few hundred. The field is also without amenities such as a permanent restroom or a press box. All schools in The American that will support a soccer program include permanent grandstand seating with the exception of the University of Central Florida, which features a large metal bleacher that seats nearly 1,500.
“We’d like to have it more like a stadium setting,” MacWilliams said. “Most of these schools play in stadium settings with lights and all that. I don’t think all of that is going to change overnight for us and it’s going to take time to improve our facilities.”
In terms of location, the softball team is at a disadvantage to the other teams in The American. There will be eight teams competing in softball in the conference next year. Temple is one of three schools – along with Memphis and Rutgers – to house softball facilities on a secondary campus, and Temple’s facilities are much farther away from its main campus than those schools.
“There’s no two ways around it, for the four teams that play [at Ambler], it’s a challenge for our kids,” softball coach Joe DiPietro said. “It would be awesome if we could have an on-site facility where we could have students participate in our games, but the way it is right now, that’s not in the cards. We make do with what we have.”
The team practices or plays six days a week. It practices at Ambler, unless the field is wet and unplayable, in which case they play on turf at Geasey Field.
DiPietro is not aware of any plans to renovate or update the softball facilities. The stadium at Ambler holds 1,000 spectators. By comparison, South Florida’s softball field holds 1,500 spectators and sports shaded seating and a press box, among other amenities.
“I don’t know if we’re ever going to have that kind of money where we can match the South Florida stadium or a Louisville stadium,” DiPietro said. “They’re legitimate stadiums. It’s not like we have a terrible playing facility, that’s not the case at all. To put it in comparison to other ones, we just don’t have that.”
Larry Dougherty, an athletic spokesman, said Temple is in the process of enhancing the existing facilities, but declined to talk specifics.
The tennis teams may not have home courts on any Temple campus next year. There are seven courts outside the Student Pavilion, but only four are playable. There are preliminary plans to demolish the Pavilion and the tennis courts to make room for a new library, which are still being discussed.
“From what I’ve been told, it’s still up in the air whether or not these courts will exist,” tennis coach Steve Mauro said. “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that we can still play here in the fall. If not, I’ll have to make other arrangements to play elsewhere.”
The teams train at Legacy Tennis Center in Manayunk during the winter months. If the on-campus courts are demolished, Mauro will pick the new home courts based on location and cost. He said court rental time for the 2012-13 season was about $20,000. From July 2011 to June 2012, the tennis teams combined for $62,510 in operating expenses.
“No one really knows if [the budget] will increase or how much it will increase,” Mauro said. “No numbers have been given to us.”
Lacrosse and field hockey both play on Geasey Field, a 156,000 square foot Astroturf field at 15th and Norris streets. The field was completed four years ago and has an electronic scoreboard.
Volleyball plays in McGonigle Hall in a gym that can seat 3,900 spectators. The building completed renovations in Summer 2012.
Andrew Parent and Evan Cross can be reached at email@example.com.