Students who play sports other than mud wrestling this Winter may not find Robertson Field up to par for their recreational activities.

The eight-acre field in front of the RecCen consists mostly of uneven dirt with patches of grass, and Physical Activities and Recreation Dept. Director Jon Spaventa said if the condition gets much worse, it could be closed.

Rob Field stays lit until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and is the only playing field open after dark, making it popular for many intramural and club sports, including flag football, ultimate Frisbee, soccer and softball.

The combination of heavy use and irrigation take their toll. UCSB uses reclaimed water, which taxes the field because of a heavy salt content.

“The bald spots on the field have roots that are destroyed, and it is very difficult to develop new roots because of the large salt content,” said Paul Lee, assistant director of the Physical Activities and Recreation Dept. “This makes it very difficult to get the field in top condition.”

Plans to improve the field have been deferred due to the considerable expense, Physical Activities and Recreation Dept. Director Jon Spaventa said. Improvements to the field’s natural turf could cost approximately $500,000.

UCSB has also looked at installing artificial turf, which would cost approximately $12 per square foot.

“We looked at a number of different plans and estimates,” Spaventa said. “We’ve looked at the problem for the better part of the year, and hoped we would have a solution this Fall, but unfortunately the funding didn’t come into place on time to do anything.”

Synthetic turf would allow sports to be played on the field during and after rains. Additionally, the turf would not need to be maintained and could last for 10 to 15 years, which would greatly reduce costs, Spaventa said.

UC San Diego has several after-dark fields and hosts San Diego Chargers training camp on its main RIMAC field. The RIMAC field and nearby track cost $170,000 a year in maintenance and irrigation, which students pay for as part of their registration fees.

“We [at UCSD] have an advantage because we have a lot of different fields so we can spread our activities around,” UCSD Director of Sports Facilities Don Chadwick said. “I think UCSB is an ideal candidate for synthetic turf.”

Last spring, two initiatives on the ballot, the Student Athletics Fee initiative and the Recreational Sports Fee initiative, were to provide student funding for repairing the fields, but neither passed. Spaventa said that if students want the field repaired they would need to form a new referendum for the Spring elections.

“While I would like to tell you [the referendum] is going to happen, I don’t know, but it really depends on the student leadership, and the students who use the field, and those who are really concerned about the field,” he said.

Athletics Director Gary Cunningham said the Student Athlete Advisory Board discussed gaining signatures for a new referendum in a meeting last week, but they are still in very early stages of planning.

If there is no referendum on the Spring ballot, or it does not pass, UCSB will look into minor renovations during the 2002 Spring and Fall Quarters that would include an attempt to grow grass on the bald spots.

“Ideally,” Spaventa said, “it would be nice if students felt it is an important enough issue to place on the ballot and if we could get synthetic turf in here, it would solve a lot of problems over the next 10 to 15 years.”

Over the last three Winter Quarters, intramural sports have had to end the season early because of poor field conditions due to rain.

“It’s pretty muddy in the middle,” junior communication major Bing Cain said. “It depends on the day. Like right after it rains, you wouldn’t even be able to run on the field.”