A combination of an online petition and an on-paper petition have amassed approximately 4,000 signatures in support of the Three Village Soccer Club's mission to negotiate what it considers a fair deal for the use of the South P Lot soccer park at Stony Brook University.
The issue at heart is the soccer park that the Three Village Soccer Club says it has spent more than $1 million to build, maintain and operate since the 1980s. The agreement the University is proposing would provide the club with seven fields rather than the eight it uses now.
Stressing the importance of their needs, members of the University's club sports teams gathered together to respond to the soccer club's petition.
Emily Edwards, a Binghamton native who is a member of the women's club lacrosse team, said the lack of field space often prevents the club teams from being competitive. The various club teams – 30 of them – play against club teams from other colleges and universities from other areas, including upstate and out-of-state. Stony Brook students pay a recreation fee to have access to recreational amenities on campus. But each of the Stony Brook teams rarely has an adequate practice field all to themselves.
"Because we are competing with schools who practice on regulation size fields every day, in order to keep up with them, this is something that's essential," said Edwards, who listed Hofstra, Princeton, Army, Syracuse, Binghamton, NYU and even schools from central Florida as the club team's typical opponents.
"There was a worry. We almost got the fields canceled on us for the game," she said. "These people bought plane tickets to be up here. You can't just cancel it because intramural sports need the field. It's tough."
The students said Stony Brook lags behind other schools in the facilities available to student athletes who aren't members of NCAA teams.
"Every school we go to has rugby facilities that are strictly for the rugby team and they have sports club facilities for other sports clubs," said PJ Abelein, a native of Port Jefferson who is one of the rugby team's 80 players. "Having that on campus would be amazing."
For Anna Lubitz, a 2010 Ward Melville graduate who played for seven years in the Three Village Soccer Club, the soccer field issue hits close to home. She is now a Stony Brook University student and president of the Undergraduate Student Government, representing groups of students who would like to use the fields.
"I see both viewpoints," Lubitz said. "But ultimately, the students need the space. We have to find a common ground to share. ... We're one community. We have to work together."
Derek Cope, president of the sports club council, called club sports the perfect alternative to Division I athletics, and said his club soccer team kept him from transferring to another school.
"It's really a recruiting tool for the university as well," he said. "If I was an incoming freshman and I saw a really nice facility such as this, that could make the decision for me to come here. ... Being able to have club aspect to it totally changes your college experience. For me, having the club kept me here. I think a lot of people can say that as well."
The students are no strangers to petitions themselves. During the 2011-2012 academic year, more than 3,300 students signed one to ask the Undergraduate Student Government to help them find more recreational field space for the club sports teams.
Cope said the title of the Three Village Soccer Club's petition – "Stop Stony Brook University from Taking Our Fields!" – is misleading.
"Stony Brook University owns the property. It's our field to start with and they're making it seem like we're taking the fields from them completely," he said. "It's only one section. ... It's not that we want to kick them out of here and say this is all for us. We want to share it. We want something we can call our own because we've never had that before."
But Mitch Pally, president of the Three Village Soccer Club, said he doesn't feel the petition is misleading. He said the issue isn't about the University wanting to use four of the fields in general – rather, it's about the University wanting exclusive use.
"The University wants exclusive use of [fields 1 through 4] starting in the fall of 2013," he said. "That’s what the draft permit says, so it is not misleading in any way, shape or form."
He said the students and the soccer club were able to accommodate each other's needs during the spring and fall seasons of 2012 by scheduling events ahead of time, and said that relationship could easily continue to exist.
"They gave us their schedule which we accommodated, we gave them our schedule which they accommodated," Pally said. "Everyone gets what they need out of it. We’re more than happy to accommodate that. But that’s not what the University said to us they want."
The soccer club is still pushing for a 15-year agreement to use the fields, along with a reprieve from paying the University around $60,000 a year to rent the space so that it can finance the building of new fields along Stony Brook Road.
"They want us to continue to pay the same amount of rent, and in fact the rent goes up each year. They want us to pay for most of the work to replace the fields," Pally said. "And they don’t want to give us a permit long enough to make sure the kids will have a place to play. [We] need the lease because if we build the fields I want to guarantee we’re going to be here."
Editor's note: This article has been updated from a previous version that misstated the half of the 25.7 acres of field space was in question.