A year ago, the St. Francis fields area on West Virginia University’s Evansdale Campus would’ve been a muddy mess following Wednesday night’s rainstorm.
That’s not the case this year, as the potholes and puddles between the Student Recreation Center and the Evansdale Residential Complex are nowhere to be found.
Through the help of a $27 million health and wellness plan, the club, intramural and recreation sports facilities at WVU received an upgrade.
“This makes things 150 percent better,” said Devon Nolan, women’s club lacrosse team president. “The girls want to come out and practice now, because of the facilities. We love using the space and the new equipment. We didn’t image in a million years that something like this would happen, so we’re just so excited.”
– Ryan Summers
Men’s Soccer Club
Starting in August, the new Evansdale recreation fields have been giving students another option when deciding to where to exercise. An artificial turf soccer field, a sod soccer field, five lighted tennis courts and a walking/jogging trail now fill that once mud-ridden area. Four tennis courts were also resurfaced near that area, as well.
“Just take a look at the use of the facilities on any given day. They are full everyday and every hour up to 11 p.m. Students are using them for recreation as well as for organized sports,” said women’s club rugby coach Chris Anderson. “It says a lot about the character, perseverance and drive to see that the needs and wants of the students were met.”
Prior to the investment announced by WVU President Jim Clements and the University in 2010, it wasn’t uncommon for teams to fear playing on the downtrodden grass. In fact, Ryan Summers, vice president of the men’s club soccer team and treasurer of the Sports Club Federation at WVU, said his team would practice in the Shell Building from 10 p.m. to midnight before stepping foot on the old St. Francis fields.
“Everyone kept talking about these facilities, and I’d say, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’” Summers said. “It’s finally here now, and our whole team is excited for the opportunity. It shows that WVU cares about its students and that they matter. They’re doing everything they can to improve this University for the students.”
Nolan and Summers said the interest in their club teams have gone up significantly since the new facilities were opened.
“We’ve been able to host games, and we’re not embarrassed to have teams come here anymore. We’re actually able to practice earlier. It’s been great for the team,” he said.
Previously, after a fall season of cleats stomping up and down at the open field space, divots and puddles made the playing surface nearly impossible to compete upon. It was like that for years.
“Four or five years ago, when a potential freshman would go on campus tours, green space was never mentioned. That was a big thing for a lot of students who came from high schools with sports like lacrosse and rugby, and it was completely left off the tour,” said former Sports Club Federation President Ryan Post. “Now, WVU has something to be proud of and something that they can show off.”
In 2009, behind the student leadership of then-Student Government Association President Jason Zuccari and the previous year’s SGA President Jason Parsons, the students helped show how important recreation facilities were to the University. Later that year, Clements pledged an increase in funding to the club sports program. In 2010, Clements announced an $8.4 million plan for upgrades in student recreation facilities.
“It definitely shows a large commitment to students. The University put more money into these facilities than I have ever imagined,” Zuccari said.
– Jim Clements
Clements and current SGA President Jason Bailey spoke briefly Wednesday evening to a crowd of club and intramural sports members as the lights from the new Evansdale recreation facilities beamed down on the space that would’ve otherwise been dark and unplayable.
“This project was for you,” Clements said. “It became very clear to me as soon as I started that this is something the students wanted, and I wanted you to have the best.”
Clements threw a ceremonial first pass to Bailey to christen the fields, and a slew of intramural flag football games followed the short presentation and reception.
The sod-covered soccer field in the Evansdale complex isn’t yet ready for play, as it will need the rest of fall and the winter to continue to grow and cultivate the playing surface.
This spring, work will begin on re-developing grass fields near the Health Sciences Center. Lights, which are placed in the middle of the grounds, will be moved to the outside of the fields.
All of these fields are now maintained by WVU Facilities Management. In addition to the facilities, the field space is organized more conveniently by an online spreadsheet. Students can reserve time and space at: http://webviewer.wvu.edu/recfield.
WVU also built a partnership with Mylan Park, where there is a newly constructed turf rugby field, two turf softball fields and an indoor facility now stand for student use. Teams who have been forced to practice at odd times in the Shell Building or Stansbury Hall now have another option with those facilities.
Bruce Brubaker, program manager at the Rec Center, said he is able to offer more outdoor intramural programs like soccer and will be able to extend the time of tournaments like baseball and softball this spring.
The club sports program at WVU continues to grow. In the last 10 years, WVU has added 29 new teams like field hockey and equestrian to up the number to 41. After monetary increases each year, by 2016 the program will have $212,000 to use for things like equipment and travel, Brubaker said.
WVU has four national champion club teams: dance (two times), cheerleading and softball.
A total of 1,400 students participate in club sports and 4,000 students play intramural sports. More than 1,000 students have played in the intramural flag football tournament this year, which is close to completion.
“Before the Rec Center was built, this University was probably close to last place of a Division I school for facilities dedicated to club and intramural sports,” said Dave Taylor, director of the Rec Center. “Now with this $8.4 million strategic plan, it’s really addressed the outdoor recreation needs for our students.”
By Tony Dobies
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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