Renovated Reese Stadium to pay dividends for Yale teams, fans

The design of the newly-renovated Reese Stadium was chosen to complement the nearby Yale Bowl and Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.
The design of the newly-renovated Reese Stadium was chosen to complement the nearby Yale Bowl and Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center. Photo by Jane Long.

The stands are ready to welcome fans as the men’s soccer team takes the pitch tonight for its home opener at the newly renovated and state-of-the-art Reese Stadium, but behind the scenes, finishing touches remain to be completed.

Reese Stadium, home of Yale’s soccer and lacrosse teams, has been in its second phase of renovations since November 2009. The stadium boasts four new team rooms, an enhanced press box, a VIP seating area, an entrance plaza and expanded bleachers that can fit up to 1,450 people. Now, with the interior finished, all that is left to finish is the plaza out front. The project is set to be completed on deadline and on budget by the end of fall.

“It’s a wonderful facility,” head men’s soccer coach Brian Tompkins said. “It’s functional for fans, for athletes. It’s going to be a great place to watch a game, but also a great place to participate in one. I think the aesthetics of the place are going to be second to none.”

Indeed, a primary concern of the renovators — Connecticut-based firm Centerbrook Architects and Planners — was creating a cohesive design among the Yale Bowl, the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center and Reese. To this end, the architects used the same barrel vaults and arches found on the facades of the other two buildings, along with a similar hue of pink, the project’s head design partner Mark Simon said. The goal was to create the feeling that Reese, the smallest of the three sports facilities, was a “sibling” of the others around it.

“Everybody who has seen it thinks it’s a cute stadium,” Simon said. “Maybe it’s because of the big brother [Yale Bowl] next door, but I tend to agree with them.”

During the design process, Simon said, the architects faced a unique challenge in making both the field and the bleachers handicap accessible, partly because of the high inclines between the entrance and the top of the stands. To resolve the issue, Centerbrook moved the handicap ramps around the staircases out of the main entrance space, which in turn helped the designers maximize the square footage available in the facility.

The new stadium was renamed in 2006 in honor of one of the renovation’s major donors, Jon Reese ’90, who played lacrosse as an undergraduate, and his brother Jason Reese ’87. The Reese brothers were among a still-growing list of more than 160 alumni who contributed to the project in a fundraising effort that Associate Athletic Director Alison Cole ’99 said was led by both the soccer and lacrosse teams. The total amount raised for the renovation is more than $1 million, with fundraised gifts ranging in value from $100 to more than $1 million.

Jon Reese could not be reached for comment.

The project is one of only a handful across the University that managed to continue through the recession. Because the University had already begun construction on the project, and since funding was fully secured, the recession had no impact on the progress of the renovations, said Barbara Chesler, the senior associate athletic director of capital projects and facilities.

Head men’s lacrosse coach Andy Shay said while the previous Reese Stadium was a fine facility — a gift from an alum for the lacrosse and soccer teams in the late 1980s — the complex was ready for an upgrade. He said he hopes the new building will help draw athletes to Yale’s programs, and plans to have recruits come visit in October to see the completed stadium.

Both Shay and Tompkins said the renovated stadium will enhance practice sessions by allowing coaches to film players and view the footage inside the facility for instant feedback. Tompkins said the updated facility also has the potential to host tournaments and NCAA games — events he said bring prestige to teams, the Athletic Department and the University. He added that the addition of locker rooms alongside the field will help to integrate halftime and pregame meetings with the rest of competition.

“In the past, [we felt like] we prepared in a separate building and we just played the game within the stadium,” Tompkins said. “Now it gives the feeling of being our home, as opposed to just being the place we go to play.”

Three members of the men’s lacrosse team interviewed said they are similarly pleased with the renovated space.

Goalie Johnathan Falcone ’11 said he and his teammates are particularly excited about the presence of an iPod dock in the stadium.

“We love going out there, practicing, and listening to music,” Falcone said. “It really creates a different atmosphere out there on the field.”

Defender Peter Johnson ’13 said having stands this year — as opposed to none last spring — will provide a better dynamic for games. He also said having air-conditioned locker rooms in which to recover during halftime marks a significant improvement from sitting on the end of the field in between halves, as the team did last season.

Several members of the men’s lacrosse team plan to attend the men’s soccer home opener tonight, Falcone said.

Correction: Sept. 15, 2010

This article originally contained several errors. First, Reese Stadium is named in honor of Jon Reese ’90 and his brother Jason Reese ’87, not only Jon. Both brothers donated to the project. Second, the net amount raised for the renovation is more than $1 million, with fundraised gifts ranging in value from $100 to more than $1 million. Third, the new stadium features four “team” rooms, not four locker rooms.

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