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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Rockin’ steady despite field shortage

    Drum major Bill Patterson conducts the Pride of Arizona as it rehearses its version of Tears for Fears at Bear Down Field on Sept. 5th.
    Drum major Bill Patterson conducts the ‘Pride of Arizona’ as it rehearses its version of ‘Tears for Fears’ at Bear Down Field on Sept. 5th.

    The UA marching band is out of a regular practice area – for now – due to the construction of new athletic facilities on the McKale Center lawn.

    “”The Pride of Arizona”” is scrambling on an almost weekly basis to find fields to rehearse on, said Jay Rees, marching band director and music professor.

    He wrote in an e-mail yesterday that the band is working with the athletics department on a concrete practice schedule for Family Weekend, Oct. 19-21, during which UA football team will host Stanford.

    “”At this time, it appears that we have a plan in place that will allow the band to utilize the (Ina E.) Gittings (building) lawn on Friday afternoon and then go off-campus (sic) to the Rincon-Vista (sic) fields for the Saturday morning instructional time,”” he wrote.

    The Rincon Vista facility, comprised of two grass fields, resides on the corner of North Plumer Avenue and East 15th Street, southeast of campus.

    The marching band has been displaced since construction on its usual practice space, south of the UA Mall and just north of McKale, 1721 E. Enke Drive, began in February, Rees said.

    “”There’s not a lot of green space because of the construction,”” said Steve Kozachik, assistant director of athletics for facilities and project manager.

    The band has been practicing on fields wherever space is available, including Tucson High School’s football field, the Gittings lawn, Bear Down Field and sometimes the space east of Sancet Field, causing conflicts with other scheduled activities, Rees said.

    Campus Recreation clubs share Bear Down Field with the band during the week, with minimal transition time for the groups, Rees said. The band

    practices three days a week between 3-5 p.m., with either the women’s rugby team or women’s ultimate frisbee club taking over immediately at five.

    The back-to-back scheduling has made things hectic for the band’s 300 members as they try to leave the field with their equipment and instruments in time.

    “”I remember the first week the marching band would go over their time by at least 15 minutes,”” said Christine Paap, a women’s ultimate frisbee player and criminal justice senior. “”The past couple of weeks have been fine, although it seems weird that we even have to deal with any overlap.””

    The lawn outside the Gittings building also has its limitations, as it is not as long as a football field and features a dangerous upward slope, Rees said.

    Neighboring Tucson High, on the corner of North Euclid Avenue and East Sixth Street, has the right size field, but “”challenging”” hashmarks different from the ones at Arizona Stadium, said James Hanson, saxophone player and music education junior.

    When the Tucson High field was being used for Pop Warner youth football for one practice time, the band was forced to a secondary field, Hanson said. A saxophone player hyperextended his ankle when he tripped over a hole on the ground.

    “”The field wasn’t meant for the purposes we were using it for,”” Hanson said.

    In addition, Tucson High’s field is made of Astroturf, which makes timing a slight challenge, Hanson said. It’s easier to do a “”glide step,”” a move to minimize upward bouncing, on fake grass than it is on real grass, so band members have to adjust accordingly once back on campus.

    “”It’s an unfortunate situation,”” Hanson said. “”It does make it a lot more difficult to get done what we need to get done.””

    Scheduling conflicts get even more complicated on home game weekends, when tents and seating are set up on Bear Down Field for the Fan Fiesta tailgating event.

    For the last two home games, Fan Fiesta crews set up the previous Friday afternoon, cutting into the band’s scheduled practice time, Rees said. Now, they wait until later Friday night or Saturday morning, so the band can use the field for practice.

    “”This is about as bad as it’s going to get,”” Kozachik said.

    Kozachik said the athletics department has successfully negotiated with contractors to pull back fencing during home games, making more room for tailgaters.

    Rees and Kozachik agreed that although many groups are working together to find available space, not everyone will be completely satisfied with the solution.

    Band members feel undaunted, however, and they believe the scheduling setbacks and lack of space will not deter them.

    “”The band can get overlooked,”” Hanson said. “”But we’re not going to let it affect our performance.””

    The construction on the McKale lawn will result in expanded athletics facilities, including a larger gymnastics practice space, new basketball and volleyball courts, and a new diving wall, Kozachik said.

    The project is expected to be complete in October 2008.

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