1) What is the University’s plan for use of the athletic fields?
Convert Baseball, Softball and Field Hockey sports fields for NCAA regulation, Division I, and Atlantic 10 Conference intercollegiate games
Reconfigure one field into three athletic venues: part for NCAA softball field; the remainder to use to expand SJU’s intramural sports programs
Install permanent bleacher seating for total of 800
Install three Public Address (PA) systems on each of the fields;
Build press boxes, dugouts, and bullpens on baseball and softball fields
Install new score boards
Use fields Spring + Fall, weekdays + weekends, sunset to sundown, for intercollegiate games, Varsity team practice and a large number of intramural sports
Install permanent 35' poles and nets along N. Latchs Lane to protect pedestrians and vehicles near NCAA baseball field
Replace natural grass with artificial turf (AstroTurf-like) product on all 3 NCAA fields [On the issue of Artificial Turf, see Inquirer Editorial July 9, 2009 "Fake fields, real risk"]
2) How many more varsity games will SJU play compared to Episcopal Academy?
In the Special Exception application, SJU intends to use all the fields from sunset (7am) to sundown (7pm), Spring, Summer and Fall.
SJU has confirmed that the total of home Baseball, Softball and Field Hockey intercollegiate games will be approximately 39. This is broken down per sport and per weekday/weekend as follows:
Baseball: 18 games, including 10 on weekends (Saturday or Sunday) from mid-February to Mid-May
Softball: 12 games, including 4 on weekends
Field Hockey: 9 games, including 4 on weekends
Episcopal academy had a total of 26 games for these 3 sports:
Baseball: 8 games, including 2 on weekends (Saturday or Sunday)
Softball: 7 games, including 1 on weekends
Field Hockey: 1 game, including 1 on weekends
So SJU plans approximately 18 weekend games vs. only 5 games for Episcopal academy
3) Will Saint Joseph’s University be playing games at night?
Currently, SJU states it has "no plans" to install night game lights on any of the fields, but the University has refused to commit to not installing game lights in the future.
4) How many spectators typically attend an SJU varsity baseball, softball or field hockey contest?
SJU claims that “these sports usually draw fewer than 100 people”. Yet its plans include building permanent bleachers to seat 400 baseball spectators, 200 softball spectators and 200 field hockey spectators.
5) How many seats are planned for the three fields?
Permanent bleacher seating plans are for 800 total: 200 for varsity field hockey, 200 for varsity softball and 400 for varsity baseball. The figure is significantly more than permanently installed bleachers that Episcopal Academy kept on the fields.
6) Will Saint Joseph’s University be playing other sports on the Maguire Campus?
SJU students will play intramural flag football for men’s, women’s and co-ed teams. Additionally, the University has not ruled out renting or loaning the three fields to other institutions, for games or for practice.
7) What are the University’s plans for a public address system?
SJU asserts that the PA systems are “professionally designed” and will comply with the Lower Merion Township Noise Ordinance. The company hired to design the PA systems was unable to give any example of such “sound-proof” amplification systems during SJU-hosted informational meeting for neighbors on 7-29-08. MCC-hired sound engineer has said that “it is nearly certain that neighbors will be able to hear the announcements during games” if the announcer’s voice is to be heard by the crowd. Atlantic 10 Conference doesn’t require PA sound systems.
8) Why is SJU planning to install artificial turf on the playing fields?
Artificial turf allows the University to use the sports fields as intensively (frequently) as it might wish for practices, intramural games and varsity games. Turf also allows SJU to rent and loan the fields to other institutions without fear of damaging the fields for SJU use. Atlantic 10 Conference does not require artificial turf.
SJU also intends to install artificial turf on the section of one field that it says it plans to use only for intramural sports.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board stated (July 9, 2009): "As the purveyors of artificial turf have often reminded us, you don't have to water it, mow it, or cancel games because it's muddy. But the mere possibility that it's poisonous is a monumental drawback compared with the alternative. Grass, anyone?"
9) Why isn’t the University installing retractable poles and remove the netting between baseball games?
Neighbors asked that the netting be lowered when the baseball field is not in use and that the University consider retractable poles, so that they would not be visible more than necessary (for safety).
The University declined and will commit only to 10-foot trees as a visual buffer.
10) Where will spectators park when attending games on the Maguire Campus?
Visiting teams will be directed to the inner parking lots via City Ave. SJU has presented no plan to prevent visitors from parking on the adjacent streets or from driving throughout the neighborhood on residential streets searching for parking.
11) Will there be a Saint Joseph’s University security presence on the new campus?
Residents are pleased to see SJU campus security on and around the Maguire campus.
12) What other features of the plan address use of the Maguire Campus?
SJU claims that extensive landscaping will provide a sound buffer, but even the SJU sound expert acknowledged that the planned trees and shrubs will not absorb sound.
SJU claims that the baseball diamond will be 70’ away from N Latchs Lane. However, SJU’s plans call for moving the current baseball field back closer to residential properties on Raynham Road. Also, bleachers will be very close to properties on both Raynham Road and Berwick Road.
According to measurements of SJU landscape architect, the closest bleacher on the proposed Berwick softball field is 120’ from the closest Berwick neighbor’s property line; the closest bleacher on the baseball field is 140’ from the closest Raynham neighbor’s property line (which is also in the direction of the PA sound system).
13) How has the University communicated with the neighbors in Lower Merion Township?
SJU hosted “informational meetings” for neighbors but did not offer bona fide solutions to the core, real and legitmate concerns that the neighbors raised, either individually or, later, collectively through MCC. The evident intent of the meetings was to provide a forum for SJU to present information to neighbors about the Maguire plans (and the sports fields in particular), but not a forum for two-way dialogue in which SJU intended to better understand and then take into consideration neighbors’ concerns via modifications of its plans.
Also, a problematic pattern of the meetings was that details about the plans that SJU representatives, being home owners themselves, reasonably could anticipate to be of most interest to neighbors routinely were not volunteered by SJU but emerged only in response to questions from neighbors. Examples are the planned bleacher seating capacity (e.g., 7-29-08 meeting); SJU’s plans for installation of artificial turf and PA systems (e.g., 4-24-08 meeting at York Lynne Manor).
Lately SJU has only communicated with neighbors through filing Zoning application to the township, filing the appeal with the Montgomery county and through the press.
14) How has MCC communicated with Saint Joseph’s University?
Neighbors tried to engage in constructive dialogue with SJU but after the first face to face meeting between MCC representatives and SJU in September 2008, the University declined to meet with neighbors again (See complete chronology of exchanges in "Timeline" section to the left) What SJU did do, for example, was to hire a lobbyist (former Lower Merion Township Commissioner, Ken Davis) and widely disseminate statements (e.g., letter from Fr. Lannon mailed to individual homes in Merion and perhaps beyond) that discredited MCC, its members and the validity of neighbors’ concerns about the plans in general.
The University also instead chose to meet behind doors closed to neighbors with all Township Commissioners who would agree to do so (approximately 9 out of 16).
15) How has MCC communicated with the residents around the Maguire campus?
Between August '08 and March '09, MCC hosted 8 meetings for residents to make all details about the plans that MCC learned available and to keep neighbors updated on developments.
MCC enabled neighbors to express their views via a petition in September 2008 (more than 250 people signed the petition).
MCC also developed a survey to enable residents to identify and assign relative weight to the range of concerns that have been raised about SJU’s plans. The survey helped MCC systematically gauge neighbor sentiment. More than 180 people participated in the survey since February 22.
16) Is it true that neighbors oppose the use of the athletic fields by the University?
No, the neighbors do not want to stop SJU students from playing on the Maguire campus, and they have repeatedly said so. Neighbors simply want the University to acknowledge and take into consideration the neighbors' concerns, especially the use of PA systems, the frequency of weekend games, the presence of much larger spectator crowds and the traffic / parking issues.