Davis & Elkins College has a rich tradition of success on the soccer field - including a pair of NAIA men's national championships - and Friday the school will take yet another step in building upon one of its hallmark and most storied athletic programs.
President G.T. "Buck" Smith, President-elect Michael Mihalyo and the Board of Trustees will break ground on a new $600,000 synthetic turf field for not only the soccer teams, but for the school's newly announced men's and women's lacrosse program.
"This is going to be a very striking and visible addition to our campus and our community," Smith said Monday night following a meeting in Baltimore with AstroTurf company officials. "We will go from having a field in a lowland area that is very temperamental in its reaction to the weather to an all-weather, all-seasons facility."
The turf field will not only serve as a crown jewel for the college, but Smith is quick to point out its overall impact and benefit to the community at large.
"Most importantly, it is a major outreach to the community," Smith said. "If you give a kid a ball, you've changed their lives. For too much of the year, the kids in our community are not able to play outside. This new field will enable us to have a space for organized youth sports, for clinics and camps and for the many other teams in our area."
Friday's groundbreaking is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Allen Athletic Fields. Smith and Mihalyo, who will speak at the event along with men's soccer coach Aron Bassoff and women's soccer coach Raul Ovalle, are encouraging the public to attend this "high moment in Senator athletics and the launch of a new era in the life of the college."
This new era kicked off earlier this year with the Finish the Field campaign, a drive designed to bring a turf field to fruition. To date, the campaign has raised more than $397,000 toward the cost of constructing the new playing surface. Smith noted that by the time the project is completed in mid-July, the entire venture will be completely funded.
"We don't undertake any project that isn't fully funded," he said. "By the time the project is finished in July, it will be paid for in full through (monetary) gifts."
As for the actual turf, D&E is opting to install a high-tech, state-of-the-art surface.
For some time, officials have been studying and exploring options. Smith said Monday that he had just decided to go with the top-of-the-line turf.
With the new playing surface and D&E's already well-known soccer program, athletic department officials are excited about future prospects and the expansion of the school's athletic offerings.
"To begin with, this is an exciting time," said D&E Athletics Director Ron Palmer. "This will be the completion of what we consider to be a fantastic outdoor complex. This will really bolster our soccer program and take it to another level."
Last season, the D&E men's soccer squad played in the NCAA Division II tournament for the first time in more than 25 years, while the women's team got off to its best start in school history - 8-0-1.
The Senators look to continue that success this fall as they enter play in a new league - the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. Davis & Elkins College will depart the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference July 1, two months before that conference permanently disbands. D&E was a charter member of the WVIAC, joining in 1924.
"We continue to grow and blossom as a college in a lot of different ways," Palmer said. "This will give athletes, all the students on campus and the community a great experience and something to be proud of."
In addition, Smith hopes the new facility will help to attract not only interest in soccer and lacrosse, but tournaments and other special events as well.
"There are going to be very few facilities in our area that will match the versatility and universal use of this new field," Smith said. "Hopefully, down the road, we will be able to have regional tournaments and make Elkins a destination spot for regional athletic events. So, this is really taking the Allen Athletic Field to a whole new dimension, and we are really glad to be able to do that."
- Executive editor Matthew Burdette can be reached at 304-636-2121, ext. 120 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org