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BU Athletics introduces new sports programs, facilities

As word spread that the Boston University Athletic Department was on the verge of a large announcement, rumors floated that a men’s lacrosse team would be introduced to the university’s roster of Division I programs. By Tuesday morning, the University had its new team – and more.

For the first time since 2004, BU Athletics will expand its varsity programs with the addition of two new teams – men’s lacrosse and women’s lightweight rowing – it said in a press release Tuesday morning. Along with these upcoming varsity teams, the release announced that as part of a $24 million project it will create a home field for the field hockey team.

“We were excited to kind of get the word out about our new field, about our new programs,” said BU Athletic Director Mike Lynch.

The field hockey team, which played its home games at Boston College and Harvard University in 2011, has not competed in a home game on BU’s campus since 2001. The new field will be named New Balance Field, and is partially funded by a $3 million gift from the Boston-based company New Balance.

“We’ve been talking about constructing this facility for, I would say, [more than] 10 years, but the conversations really got picked up in the past year,” Lynch said. “The specific conversations with New Balance, we began talking to them about six months ago and it was nothing but positive.”

The 110, 000-square foot field will be located in BU’s west campus at the corner of Babcock and Ashford Streets, and will be located on top of a new parking garage to take the place of the current parking lot.

While the field hockey team will play at New Balance Field, the new men’s lacrosse team, which will play its first season as a varsity program in the 2013-14 season, will find a home at Nickerson Field.

According to Lynch, BU views the lacrosse team as a way to bolster an already strong athletic program at BU.

“Men’s lacrosse kind of hits right in the sweet spot of where I feel our athletic program is going,” Lynch said. “There’s unprecedented growth and exposure with men’s lacrosse that you don’t get with a number of other sports, and I feel like this is because of the part of the country that we live in.

“There is such a fever for lacrosse in this area. We’re right in the hot bed here. I felt like that was a sport that we could be instantly competitive in, and hopefully some day we’ll be able to compete at the national level.”

The varsity lacrosse program will stem from the current club team that competes in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. The club team wasn’t officially aware that BU would create a Division I program until Tuesday’s release.

“There were a various number of rumors that were spreading around campus that we sort of heard about,” said Kyle Lange, the club team’s treasurer. “But basically this morning when the announcement came, that was when we really knew it was confirmed and that the team was going Division I.”

While the change is a large step for the club team, Lange said he did not see it as something that would change the way the club team performed during the course of the next two seasons.

“The team still has the goal this year of getting to the national tournament in the MCLA,” Lange said. “Next year our goal is still going to be the same – to get to the national tournament. Basically we’re just pushing the announcement to the side and focusing on what we have to do to get to the national tournament this year and next year.”

According to Lynch, the members of the club team will have the opportunity to try out for the varsity program.

While the players and coaches of the club team are excited about the development, they have their concerns about the transition and what it will mean for the club team members.

“I am fully behind it,” said club team assistant coach Alex Lattell, who played for the team from 2004-08. “It’d be a great opportunity for some of the kids to stand a chance to try it . . . What I worry about is all the work the past players have put into it. Going forward, I’m hoping that the university, the administration [and] the Athletic Department would kind of welcome those alumni into that program rather than just kind of starting new and treating it as if they did nothing.”

Although the introduction of a varsity lacrosse program requires the integration of an already formed club team, the new women’s lightweight row team presents a brand new opportunity for the Athletic Department, Lynch said.

“The women’s lightweight team really puts us in a class with some of the best rowing programs anywhere in the country,” Lynch said.

Overall, the decision to introduce both programs was part of a lengthy process by the Athletic Department.

“Every year we have a strategic planning exercise that we go through here within the department,” Lynch said. “So on an annual basis we’ll take a look at the sports that are out there and what might make sense here at BU . . . It just happened that these two were the ones that kept coming up in the conversation of sports that we could get into and do really well at, and ones that people would really respond to here amongst the BU community.”

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