When Devynne Nelons first saw how far Temple’s softball stadium was from Main Campus, she wasn’t bothered.
“My high school field was off-campus, so I was used to that,” Nelons, now the Owls’ senior third baseman, said. “When I came on my visit, it was a great field. I loved it, and I felt like I wouldn’t really mind the trip to Ambler every day.”
After the Board of Trustees voted last December to cut softball and baseball, only men’s and women’s soccer will continue competing at Ambler Campus. Now, the future of the sports complex – and the campus in general – is uncertain.
Softball coach Joe DiPietro said a member of the Board of Trustees recently informed him and baseball coach Ryan Wheeler that the university is planning to sell Ambler Campus.
Senior Vice President for Construction, Facilities and Operations Jim Creedon called DiPietro’s remarks “a rumor,” and said there are no plans to sell Ambler.
Administrators said the commute to Ambler was detrimental to the well-being of student athletes. Coaches and players, however, question whether the transportation obstacle warranted the elimination of their teams.
“[The location] hasn’t played an impact on getting recruits,” DiPietro said. “I never lost a kid because of Ambler.”
Men’s soccer coach David MacWilliams was at Temple in 2004 when his sport moved to Ambler, along with baseball, softball and women’s soccer.
“They tried to make it work for the four teams that were going up there,” MacWilliams said.
DiPietro joined the Owls four years after the facilities at Ambler were opened. But DiPietro was coaching at nearby La Salle during the transition, and he remembers what it was like playing at Ambler as an opponent.
“I saw the facility they played at before, and it was not good,” DiPietro said. “It was in a terrible area. So I thought [Ambler] was a huge upgrade.”
Ambler has its drawbacks, however. MacWilliams pointed to the soccer benches, which have no coverings. The field is not fenced in and has no drainage system.
“So the first few years, when it rained, it just sat there,” MacWilliams said.
Ambler teams have also had trouble getting fans to travel to their games. Last fall, the men’s and women’s soccer teams had, by far, the lowest attendance in the American Athletic Conference.
“It’s tough, because we don’t have lights, we have to play a lot of times [at] two or three in the afternoon,” MacWilliams said. “There’s not a lot of people that can make that, and we’re away from the student body.”
DiPietro said he thinks softball gets a good turnout, although Nelons was less enthusiastic, saying that “most of our fans are family.” She said that she has seen other sports at Temple, along with softball programs from other universities, get larger crowds.
Nelons added that the trips to Ambler have been harder than she had thought they would be.
“It’s definitely been frustrating over the years, to get on a bus and ride an hour up and an hour back,” Nelons said.
President Theobald has publicly said the plans to build a soccer field south of Main Campus are in the works.
Creedon said no decision has been made on the future of the baseball and softball fields past this summer.
Nelons said she could have overlooked the long distance if Temple had kept the softball program.
“Obviously, if we were presented with, ‘Stay on [Ambler] Campus or lose your program altogether,’ we would easily have chosen to stay at Ambler,” Nelons said.
Don McDermott can be reached at email@example.com.