by Megan Whiting
The University of Northwestern – St. Paul welcomes a new and improved sports complex to the campus this fall. Athletes and fans alike are pumped and ready to use the high quality athletic facilities.
“The complex provides three multi-purpose turf fields with lights (softball, baseball, football/soccer/lacrosse) and six tennis courts. Included in the new facility are bathrooms, concessions stands and four locker rooms. These facilities will host student athletes, intramurals, physical education classes and the general public,” said Matt Hill, vice president for Student Life and Athletics.
The stadium was packed on the first Saturday night football game, as excitement pulsed through the fans and players. Kevin Langmade, senior inside linebacker and kicker for the Eagles, said that the team is excited to be able to play under the lights.
Langmade said, “It’s hard having three sports (men’s and women’s soccer and football) playing on the same field. Now that we have turf, [the field’s] going to be really nice throughout the entire year.”
The team is glad to have a field they can rely on. In the past, UNW athletes were used to playing on grass. For a lot of the football players, having the new addition of turf is a great improvement. Langmade said, “It plays faster. You can run quicker and for kicking, it’s way easier.”
Football fans Christa Birkholz and Ellyn Lluch both agreed that the new stadium made the fans come alive at the first football game and that they are excited to go to other events such as baseball and soccer games and tennis matches. In regard to the first football game Birkholz said, “Now it’s like high school games all over, and it was really fun being under the lights.”
The new complex is also bringing back tennis courts to the UNW campus. Tennis players have become accustomed to having to travel off campus for practice. Nathan Elias, a sophomore on the tennis team said that having to accommodate for commuting time to and from practice got annoying. “Having the courts on campus will make tennis practices more efficient. Hitting on brand new courts will also be really cool, so it gets me pumped to be part of the first team hitting on the new courts,” said Elias.
The on-campus tennis courts may also encourage more of a fan base for the tennis team. Elias said, “As far as the fans, there weren’t many supporters at our matches, but the new courts will really uplift the tennis program.”
UNW is hoping this new complex will be a catalyst for attracting new students.
Hill said, “We project over 175 additional new students after four years, bringing us to approximately 500 student athletes.”
For current students, the hope is that it helps grow school spirit and pride and a place for intramural and recreational activities. In keeping up with shifting college trends such as online schooling and other options for earning a degree from home, UNW is hoping to attract students to the residential life with co-curricular offerings.
The new sports complex is also going to be getting some use by younger kids. Hill said, “UNW will be offering Christ-centered athletic camps for thousands of younger kids – teaching them the skills of their sport, but more importantly, teaching them about how to be a Christian athlete.”
As of Sept.10, the football/soccer/lacrosse field is completed, and the spirit plaza and stadium (including seats, press box, locker rooms, concessions stand and bathrooms) are open.