NEW YORK - Columbia University has begun construction of a new Seasonal Air-Supported Structure (SASS) in the Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium at Baker Athletics Complex, Campbell Family Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Physical Education Peter Pilling announced today.

“We are thrilled to commence construction of our practice ‘Bubble at Baker’ this summer,” said Pilling. “This is an exciting facilities project for Columbia, which will provide state-of-the-art indoor winter practice space for our varsity field sports which compete at the Baker Athletics Complex.”

When completed, the Bubble at Baker will feature a 650,000 cubic-foot air-supported dome enclosing a brand-new FieldTurf Revolution 360 playing surface, which is optimized for soccer and suitable for other field sports. The bubble will be inflated over Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium from December through mid-March every winter, beginning in 2016.

All seven of Columbia’s field sports teams at the Baker Athletics Complex (Football, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer, Baseball, Softball, Field Hockey and Lacrosse) will receive access to the indoor practice facility throughout the winter.

“An indoor facility in the winter months is a key component in our long term plan,” says Al Bagnoli, the Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football at Columbia. “Whether it is speed enhancement, cardiovascular training or position-specific drills, the bubble will allow us to work year-round, as Columbia never has been able to before.”

Tracey Bartholomew, Columbia’s Head Women’s Soccer Coach adds, “The offseason is invaluable to our success. Every player works in the offseason to develop individually, and with the bubble we will now be able to train on a full turf field as a team to improved collectively.”

Columbia becomes the third Ivy League athletics program to create a Seasonal Air-Supported Structure within its athletics facility footprint, following Penn and Harvard. The placement of the structure over the wider soccer venue (as opposed to over the football footprint of Robert K. Kraft Field in Lawrence A. Wien Stadium) will provide Columbia with a large cubic footprint that will accommodate more athletes than a similar bubble on an American Football field.

The large amount of space will provide flexible practice setups for all field sports – which will come in very handy for Columbia’s spring sports teams who often start competition season before the end of the sometimes harsh New York City winters. This will give Columbia teams a jump-start to their early season contests.

“We battle the cold and dark in the winter months and do not have an outdoor hitting facility when we have snow on the ground,” notes Head Baseball Coach Brett Boretti. “The bubble gets us out of the indoor batting cages (in Dodge Fitness Center) and into a much better venue to play live baseball at game speed, which will enhance our early season development.”

Head Lacrosse Coach Andrea Cofrin also notes, “We must have a place where we can work on our skills during the winter. The bubble will better prepare us for our spring competition season.”

Funding for the bubble is being provided entirely by donors to Columbia Athletics.

“Our alumni, parents and friends have stepped up generously to get this project underway,” Says Katie Day Benvenuto ’03CC ’12BUS, Columbia’s Director of Athletics Development. “We look forward to reaching our development goals by the time the bubble is inflated at the end of the fall season.”

The resurfacing of the Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium will be completed by LandTek, the firm responsible for last year’s successful resurfacing of Robert K. Kraft Field. The air-supported structure will be installed by Arizon. Columbia Facilities is managing the project.

In addition to Columbia’s outdoor varsity teams, it is anticipated that the Bubble at Baker will also be accessible to Columbia’s campus recreation programs, including select club sports and intramurals.  Access for local community groups and select rental opportunities will also be available.

“Beyond being a great addition for our outdoor sports teams, the bubble will provide benefits to the Dodge Fitness Center on campus,” adds Pilling. “By providing our teams with field-appropriate indoor practice facilities, we will relieve the overcrowding and cramped conditions of Dodge caused by reserving Levien and University Gyms for our Baker teams’ indoor practices.”

The new seasonal structure at Baker will feature approximately 92,000 square feet of practice space. By comparison, Levien Gym affords about 15,000 square feet of practice space; University Gym provides only 5,000.

This newest project is the continuation of the university’s effort to modernize and improve the Baker Athletics Complex over the past decade. In 2012, Columbia dedicated the award-winning Campbell Sports Center at the corner of 218th Street and Broadway. Designed by renowned architect and Columbia faculty member Steven Holl and his firm, The Campbell Sports Center has been lauded by numerous awards committees in New York and beyond. In 2014, Columbia unveiled the Muscota Marsh, a popular, scenic public greenspace for the Inwood community that the university supports on an ongoing basis.

In total, the continued commitment to varsity athletics by Columbia alumni, fans, parents and friends is providing incredible opportunities for the Lions. As Head Men’s Soccer Coach Kevin Anderson remarks, “Columbia Men’s Soccer is on the verge of something great. Access to year-round, top quality training facilities is a huge component of what will help bring us to the next level.”

For more information on how to make a gift to the Bubble at Baker project, please contact Katie Day Benvenuto, Director of Athletics Development at kad57@columbia.edu or by calling the Development Office at (212) 851-7860.