There are usually casualties when a long-term relationship ends, such as favorite DVDs or a pair of the coziest sweatpants. In the case of Columbia and Roosevelt University’s athletic partnership, however, the losses are imminent even though the relationship remains intact.
Roosevelt’s modern, mirrored building erected at 425 S. Wabash Ave., and the relatively unbroken ground of the lot at the southeast corner of Wabash Avenue and Congress Parkway, will deal two blows to the Columbia Renegades: first from the loss of revenue and then the loss of a practice facility.
The relationship between the Roosevelt Lakers and the Renegades goes back to 1994, when Columbia’s Fitness and Recreation Coordinator Mark Brticevich went to work at Roosevelt’s fitness center in exchange for Columbia students having access to the facility. Since then, the relationship between athletic departments has grown and shifted depending on who has what.
For the past two years, the collaboration between the Renegades and Roosevelt has consisted of a cycle of leases. Currently, Roosevelt pays Columbia to use the gym in the Residence Center, 731 S. Plymouth Court. The money Columbia makes from that contract goes toward funding the athletics association. According to Brticevich, the money is then paid back to Roosevelt for use of the South Loop Elementary School gym, 1212 S. Plymouth Court, where the Lakers buy gym time from the school.
The opening of the unnamed 425 S. Wabash Ave. building, which will serve as a “vertical campus” with a residence center, dining hall, classrooms and lecture halls, also means the opening of a new fitness facility for the Roosevelt community.
Good news for the Lakers, but bad news for the Renegades.
“This year, the contract [with Roosevelt] was reduced because they’re only using the Fitness Center until April 1,” Brticevich said. “As of April 1, they’ll be using their own facility. So we have to cut funding there.”
While the entire fifth floor of the vertical campus will be dedicated to treadmills, fitness studios, weight machines and locker rooms, it will lack one important element: a basketball court.
“When they decided to design their new building, for some reason they decided not to put the basketball court back in there and to wait for a field house,” Brticevich said. “I think that was a mistake.”
Mistake or not, the lack of a basketball court may have been a blessing in disguise for the Renegades. Without money coming in from Roosevelt for the use of Columbia’s Fitness Center, there would be little chance the Renegades could afford to lease the South Loop gym on their own.
“The loss [of the South Loop gym] would be the worst thing for us because [at Columbia] we don’t get a lot of funding for the athletics association,” said Abby Cress, president of the Renegades.
Roosevelt’s lack of basketball courts only stalls the inevitable loss of the South Loop gym, as the opening of Roosevelt’s Lillian and Larry Goodman Center and field house is planned for this November or December.
According to Michael Cassidy, athletic director at Roosevelt, once the Goodman Center opens with its new courts, Roosevelt will have no need for the South Loop gym. He added that the university will not renew its South Loop contract next year.
“What we’re looking at is just rolling most of our intramural and recreation into outdoor programming in the fall and then ramping everything up and really blowing it up big once the Goodman Center opens,” Cassidy said.
While the Lakers have big plans for their athletics program, the Renegades are still trying to figure out what the changes mean and how they can prevent any major issues.
“There are going to be a lot of changes with the Renegades,” Cress said. “We have a lot of teams already, like men’s basketball, looking for other places to practice.”
People from both Columbia and Roosevelt remain optimistic that the 16-year relationship between their athletic departments will prevail and permit the Renegades to utilize the Goodman Center for team practices.
“I’m going to have lots of talks with Mark [Brticevich] as we get into the fall and end of the summer to see how we can continue to work together,” Cassidy said.
Until then, Brticevich said Renegades teams will have to brave the elements or empty their pockets for practice space.
“They’re going to have to play outside when it’s a little colder, a little more unforgiving weather-wise, or they’re going to have to find other facilities where they can use their team dues or fundraising to pay for other facilities,” he said.