Renovations to the Maple Street athletic fields, including the addition of a softball field, will begin before the end of this semester. The field will be ready for use in August, according to Executive Vice President Dale Hamel.
According to Hamel, the entire project will cost an estimated $4.35 million – $3.35 million of which the administration borrowed through the Massachusetts State College Building Authority. Hamel explained that the Building Authority issued bonds on the University’s behalf in order to finance the project in December.
The University has committed $225,000 from College Operations and administrators anticipate borrowing the remainder next January, according to Hamel.
The updates to the two fields on Maple Street will be made in two phases. The first will include constructing a softball field over the area in between the current soccer field and the Maple Street parking lot. Currently, the area is used predominantly for football practices. The new additions also allocate space to allow the softball diamond to double as a practice football field as well as a practice space for other athletic department team and club sports.
Phase one of the project will also include the construction of new stands on the existing soccer field as well as concession stands, bathrooms and team changing rooms, according to the project plan.
Phase two of the plan includes updating and replacing the turf on the existing soccer field and installing field lights for night games and practices.
The space that will soon become the softball field, according to Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Thomas Kelley, is currently about 60 yards of what he calls “an uneven hunk of grass” with rocks, holes and dirt on which the football team “did about 80 to 90 percent” of its practices. “I call it a grass area,” said Kelley, “but it has no more grass then the man on the moon.”
According to Warren Fairbanks, associate vice president of facilities and capital planning, the construction project will be managed by Colantonio, Inc. The company will level the current area and install turf as well as a drainage system. When finished, the field will include about 88,725 square feet of turf for student athletes, coaches, trainers and spectators to enjoy.
For Kelley, the project is bittersweet because the current “grass area” holds quite a bit of history. “I am going to miss that old place,” he said, explaining that having a tough field to practice on “was part of our [the football team’s] mantra,” and that the football team saw it as another obstacle that made them stronger. “No one else in our league practices on something like this. I kind of use it to motivate.”
Pat McGrath, a graduating senior and middle linebacker, said, “A lot of hard work and dedication has been put in on that field. A lot of this team’s recent success stems from Coach Kelley’s ‘old school’ coaching style, and practicing on the uneven rocky surface was his favorite. I think it is definitely going to be bittersweet to move on from something that defined this program for years.”
Kelley admits, however, that “looking at it realistically, the updates are really for the betterment of our athletes, and this is going to be the best thing for us.” He added, “I have been here the longest, so I get to be the most excited.”
Kelley explained that one of the updates that will help the athletes most is the new lighting on the fields. Kelley said that so far, without good lighting at night, many students end up needing to wake up at 6 a.m. or earlier to find practice times. When the updates on the field are finished, however, the addition of more space and new lights will allow teams to either practice at the same time or practice under the new lighting, later at night.
The new field updates, said Kelley, will provide a “better quality of life” to many of the student athletes on campus. “There are going to be two half time-type locker rooms down there,” he said. “Right now, the athletes just go down to one end of the field, and if there is inclement weather, that is just too bad. … The thing that always concerned me was if there was lightning down there, there was nowhere for the athletes to go. Now, we will at least be able to get them into shelter and out of bad weather.”
Jess Anthony, a sophomore catcher on the softball team and said the new amenities offered at the fields will help improve team practices. “Before, we had to commute about 15 minutes to the other side of Framingham,” she said. The current game field at MassBay Community College “doesn’t even have dugouts, a fence around the bench, or even stands for people to sit.”
Anthony explained she is looking forward to practicing on the new field. “I think we will be much more excited to play home games,” she said, “because we will be on a field we can be proud of. … I really hope with all of that [the updates], more people will come to the games.”
Rich Paulhus, the head softball coach, said the team is enthusiastic about being able to walk to practice “anytime they want.” He added, “The athletic department did all they could to make our two town fields a home field, but … it just never felt like a home field.” Paulhus said that being so close to a home field “is just unbelievable.”
Angela Pallotta, a freshman Center Midfielder for the women’s soccer team, said that the aspect of having a bigger complex to play in at home makes her look forward to the upcoming season even more. “I feel like it will draw in more fans, and we had a great season last year, so people will definitely want to make a walk down not only to watch us, but check out the new complex.”
She added, “The fact that there will be more stands and places for fans to go will really encourage more people to come and support us.”
Head Coach for the Men’s Soccer team Dean Nichols said that although the plans right now do not indicate that phase two of the project will be completed by next season, he imagines that in the future, the new amenities “should make things easier” and raise the team’s visibility.
He added the new complex should assist in attracting recruits to FSU and spectators to the games.
Senior Running Back Milikke Van Alstyne said the field updates will be beneficial and well deserved after the few years that the football team and other sports have had. He added, “We are very thankful and it is greatly appreciated.”
Kelley said, “We are going to knock this out so that softball can have an A1-quality playing field,” adding, “The student athletes are psyched, and we will be able to do things for intramurals that we have never been able to do before.”