Spring is a time of rebirth, and come March the lacrosse, softball and crew teams will all be enjoying the benefits of a new season and reborn facilities.
This academic year, the University completed construction on new fields for the lacrosse and softball teams and on the new Gilder Boathouse for the crew team, all in time for their respective competitive seasons. Each group hopes to reap the benefits of new facilities that provide more space and support team strengths.
Both the men’s and women’s lacrosse team have not missed a practice since they began using their new artificial surface field Feb. 1. Unlike a grass field, the new playing surface can be plowed when it snows.
The artificial turf field, which is 80 by 120 yards with lights and seating for 750, will serve the dual purpose of hosting the home contests of the women’s lacrosse team in the spring and of the field hockey team in the fall.
The outdoor field is a major change for the lacrosse teams, which have traditionally held winter practices in Coxe Cage.
“It really benefits a team to be outdoors,” Associate Athletics Director Barbara Chesler said. “It allows them to adjust for outdoor conditions they can’t do in Coxe Cage.”
But the new facilities also serve another purpose.
“[The new field] provides [the lacrosse teams] with a more classic Division I complex,” Chesler said. “It helps with recruiting by showing a strong commitment to the program.”
While the old softball field used to be 200 feet from home plate to every point along the outfield wall, the new field moves the centerfield line back 20 feet while bringing in the foul lines 10 feet. Softball head coach Andy Van Etten expects the extra space will not be a be a problem for his outfielders.
“If anything, the larger outfield will be an asset,” Van Etten said. “We’re a fast team that can cover the gaps. If our pitchers can keep it in the ballpark, we’ll be in good shape.”
The addition of a batting cage and a larger bullpen will also help the team in its preparation for the season. Yale will be the first of the Ancient Eight to have a softball field with dugouts, Etten said.
But the real advantage is the positioning of the field.
“[The new field] is going to be really nice,” catcher Kristen Maturo ’01 said. “As a catcher, the sun used to set in your face. Now it sets on the right. The only person it could bother is the person in left field.”
While the daughters of Eli have not yet practiced on their new natural grass field because of snow cover, the team can’t wait to test out the turf.
“[The new field] is all everybody talks about,” Maturo said. “What’s disappointing is we have only two Ivy doubleheaders at home and the other five are away.”
The completion of the Gilder Boathouse in the fall brought a welcome change from the confined quarters of the Enterprise Yacht Club boathouse in Shelton, Conn.
“[At Enterprise] we would have a changing room the size of a Lanman-Wright bedroom,” heavyweight crew team member Todd Moen ’01 said. “You hardly had room to get a shirt off. [The new boathouse] allows us to focus more on rowing and worry less about getting ready to row.”
In addition to more space, the Gilder Boathouse houses more than three times the number of showers and over twice the number of boat bays. The additional space for preparation and storage supports a program that has over 100 participants.
“[The new boathouse] is a lot more conducive to having three very active programs,” Moen said.
The softball team will open its season March 4 at Stetson. The men’s lacrosse team opens its season on the artificial turf field against Drexel March 3 and will play the remainder of their home games in the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium. The women will play all their home games on the artificial surface beginning March 12, when they host Hofstra. The crew teams will participate in the President’s Cup March 10 in Tampa, Fla.