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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

SMC expands academic and athletic facilities

New fields and traditions are taking root at Saint Mary’s this spring as construction progresses on the Patricia Wiedner Purcell Athletic Fields and yet-unnamed Science Hall.

Austin Stahley, manager of energy and facilities projects, said in an email that the concession building of the field complex has been finished, and permanent power for the athletic complex had been completed at the end of the December. This enabled all the equipment and lighting to be energized, he said.

The last five to 10 percent of field construction, including softball field fine-turning and drainage and seeding, will resume in the spring, Stahley said.

At this time, there are numerous variables that will affect our decision on how soon the fields will be available for practices, games, events, etc.,” Stahley said. “We will be monitoring the maturity of the turf to determine when appropriate conditions have been met to avoid adverse effects to the complex as a whole.”

The fields include a soccer, lacrosse and softball field, Athletic Director Julie Schroeder-Biek said.

“To have a field dedicated to each of those sports is huge because most colleges will share a soccer field and lacrosse field,” Schroeder-Biek said. “We have independent fields for each of those sports, and that’s incredibly exciting.”

A new lighting system will also benefit the student athletes of the College, she said.

“I am thrilled about the lights,” Schroeder-Biek said. “We’ll have night games, and that will allow [the students] to stay in class a little bit longer, and that will be less class time missed.”

Schroeder-Biek said the complex also includes a scoreboard and press boxes. The most recent large-scale athletic department renovation was the construction of the current Angela Athletic Facility in 1977, she said.

“[The new complex] is finally what this campus deserves in terms of varsity athletic fields,” she said. “Now they have that NCAA DIII varsity athletics feel. … I can’t wait for the visiting teams to see the fields. The soccer fields were the best fields in the league, and now I’m really excited about the look and the quality.”

The presence of a large, French cross-shaped gate and the likely addition of a bell to ring before games and after victories adds to the collegiate curb appeal and new traditions brought by the project, she said.

Senior lacrosse captain Kristen Whalen said she is excited about developing and sharing new traditions with the lacrosse team this season.

"The iron gates featuring the French cross at the entrance are absolutely marvelous,” Whalen said. “I can’t wait to watch them become another charming and distinguishable feature at Saint Mary’s, like the iconic Le Mans façade.”

The use of the fields this spring season depends on the stability of the newly-grown root base and subsoil, Schroeder-Biek said.

“They’re beautiful, and we’re all so anxious to get out on those fields,” Schroeder-Biek said. “And it’s so much easier on the student-athlete experience. It was really tough on soccer this fall to have to go off-site all the time for practices.

“We’re really hopeful we can be out there in the spring,” she said. “We’re at that wait-and-see moment right now.”

Whalen said she is also anxious to play on the fields and believes pride in the new complex will feed into the team’s competitive edge.

“In the past, our home facilities have been fairly rugged in comparison to larger, co-ed schools in our conference,” Whalen said. “On and off the field, a Belle exudes class, is fiercely competitive and relentlessly puts her best foot forward until the end — now we are blessed to have a facility that embodies these characteristics, too.”

“I am so humbled by the Purcells’ generosity,” Whalen said. “The attention to detail surpasses everything I could have hoped for. The thought of playing on the field for Senior Day [on April 16] is honestly more exciting than graduation."

Plans for a future renovation and addition onto Angela Athletic Facility are in discussion, Schroeder-Biek said.

Construction of the Science Hall is also making progress and is on track to meet the fall 2016 completion date, Stahley said in an email. The mild winter has been beneficial in keeping on track, he said.

“We’ve been able to keep a constant workforce on site to enable the project’s success and fall completion,” Stahley said. “For example, with the minimal amount of snow, less attention and labor hours are being delegated toward usually important items such as snow removal on the roof.

“This benefits everyone’s progress because of the connection and coordination between the different trades.”

Currently, attention is being focused on the existing south side, he said.

“Due to the phasing aspect of this project, certain classrooms and lab spaces need to be completed before we can begin demolition and renovation of existing areas to maintain associated learning environments,” Stahley said. “The majority of the remaining work will not be completed earlier than this summer or fall of 2016.”