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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Column: In the dark

It’s a simple change, but it could revolutionize the UC Davis sports experience.

With 23 sports teams, a football stadium just five years old and a renovated basketball arena, the next logical facility upgrade for UC Davis is obvious — lights.

As of now Aggie Soccer Field, Dobbins Baseball Complex and La Rue Softball Field all remain daytime only facilities, as no lights have yet been put in place. The 2008 edition of Aggie Pride Magazine — a publication released by UC Davis athletics development — cited lighting on all three facilities as a top priority for the upcoming years.

Yet here we stand, four years later, and no meaningful progress has been made.

The simple addition of overhead lighting would have a multi-fold impact on not just the teams that use those facilities, but all of UC Davis athletics.

First, and probably most importantly, it would increase the size of crowds able and willing to attend UC Davis sporting events.

As things stand, mid-week games for soccer, baseball and softball have to be played during daylight hours. This leads to a lot of contests that start between noon and 4 p.m. on weekdays. This is a time when most people are working or going to class, and this is reflected in the attendance numbers.

After the start of school in September, men’s soccer games held on weekends averaged 829 fans, while games held during the week netted an average of just 634 fans.

Adding lights to the field would help more people see Aggies sports events, creating a better environment in the stadiums as well as providing revenue and exposure for the university.

But fans are often reluctant to attend games based on more than just their work or school schedules. Many supporters are likely to be dissuaded by the blazing heat that can plague outdoor sporting events in Davis — especially during late summer and early fall.

On multiple occasions this year both men’s and women’s soccer had to play in temperatures approaching 100 degrees — conditions that are not exactly conducive to a pleasant fan experience.

The same is also often true for late season baseball and softball games — especially when softball plays doubleheaders that can require fans to sit in the sun for around four hours.

And not only is the heat negative for the fans, but it has an effect on the players as well. Expecting college students to perform athletically in temperatures over 95 degrees is not only physically taxing, but it is borderline dangerous.

Providing lights at UC Davis stadiums would allow teams to play at night, when temperatures are significantly cooler and both players and fans can enjoy a safe and exciting environment.

Finally, the lack of lighting has effects on players that most fans would never think about. Due to the fact that the stadiums remain unlighted, teams are typically forced to practice during the day.

Not only does this make it more likely that players will be subjected to practices in intense heat, but it makes it difficult for students to schedule their classes as well — since the majority of classes at UC Davis are scheduled between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

This cause conflicts for students, prompting some former athletes to complain that they were unable to graduate in four years because they had to schedule classes around practice times.

Granted UC Davis is not a BCS-level school, and we currently face a severe budget issue, but the addition of lights to current athletics facilities does not seem unreasonable.

It’s a long-awaited improvement, and the sooner we can get them the better.

TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.


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