Facilities will not have long to celebrate Homecoming this November. The Monday after the game, the College will break ground on the new Weston Field sports complex. The entire project is slated to cost approximately $17.6 million and is going to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED ) Certified.
In the course of nine months, Facilities plans to resurface Weston Field with synthetic turf, add state of the art lighting and reorient it to parallel Renzie Lamb Field. Further, Facilities will relocate the Peck grandstand to the east side of the football field after removing the existing bleachers and press box. In between the new Weston and existing Renzie Lamb Fields, workers will construct a 25,000 square foot grandstand building “with a new press box and fully accessible bleachers that will serve both fields,” according to Steve Klass, vice president for Operations. The building under the stands will contain locker and training rooms, a concession stand and bathrooms for fans.
Finally, the current track and field event space will be replaced by a new nine lane track and multiple throwing circles and jumping pits. The current student parking lot at the entrance of the field will be removed in order to make room for a new throwing area.
Project manager Jason Moran described the project as having virtually left the planning stages. “We’ve finished construction drawings and put everything out to bid,” he said, meaning that the project team has begun soliciting and evaluating bids from sub-contractors. “Right now the schedule is pretty concrete.”
Construction work is scheduled to begin Nov. 3 and should be completed by Aug. 28, just in time for the beginning of the fall sports seasons. That said, the road to the finish line has not been entirely smooth. The long-envisioned project has been plagued by a certain amount of bureaucratic stop-and-go, according to those involved in the planning process. For instance, the track that will be replaced by the new complex was itself completely resurfaced just two years ago, amid uncertainty as to whether and how the current Weston project would proceed.
“The project moved slowly for all the right reasons,” said Harry Sheehy, director of athletics. “We were scheduled to break ground a year earlier, but we decided to take the extra time to make sure that every [sports] program’s needs would be met.”
The aim of the project is to address a host of issues in the current Weston Field Complex that range from the inconsistent drainage that causes divots and uneven surfaces on the football field to track facilities that do not comply with NCAA regulations, preventing the College from hosting home meets.
For track and field Head Coach Fletcher Brooks, new facilities that meet NCAA standards present the opportunity to hold championship meets featuring some of the best teams in the region. “If it ends up being the facility it can be, it’s going to allow us to host some championship meets, which is something we haven’t done in a long time,” he said. Chief among Brooks’ hopes for the new facility is the ability to “to run a meet that doesn’t take all day- People, if they’re already going to be driving here, don’t want to be stuck in a meet that takes seven or eight hours.” The new and enlarged facilities could allow the men’s and women’s teams to compete simultaneously, increasing the meets’ efficiency and making it more likely that teams from the Boston area would be willing to venture out to the Purple Valley.
Nate Newburg ’09, a member of the College track and field team, echoed the prevailing sentiment that competitors on the team have been forced to use a sub-par facility for years. “The old facilities used to be so bad that we could not even host an official meet at Williams,” he said. “I hope the new field has better drainage, because walking through puddles in early spring is a pain for players and for people who come to watch the meets.”
The football team also feels it is in desperate need of an upgrade. “If you look at our current facilities, they are bar none the worst in the league,” said Mike Whalen, head football coach. Whalen also mentioned what was from his perspective one of the most significant features of the project: the replacement of the grass of Weston Field with field turf. The new surface will be something like the one already in place on Renzie Lamb Field except it will be spongier and feature longer “blades” of artificial grass. Its durability will also allow the team to practice on the new field.
Sheehy highlighted the wide range of effects that the renovations will have, describing the new facility as a “much more fan-friendly environment.” In addition to giving fans better bathroom access than is currently afforded by Weston’s tin shed, the home team bleachers for Weston Field will be moved back to the other side of the field, to the position they occupied before the last major Weston renovation in 1987. The new view will serve to keep the sun out of Williams fans’ eyes and provide a better mountain view.