Nearly fifty years after Yale College’s first female students arrived in New Haven in the fall of 1969, two women’s teams celebrated the opening of the Carol Roberts Field House, the Bulldogs’ first athletic facility designed for, funded by and named for women.
The Field House, named for Carol Roberts ’81, is Yale’s first athletic facility dedicated solely to women’s teams. Situated between Johnson Field and William O. DeWitt ’63 Family Field, and home to the field hockey and softball teams respectively, the $6 million project provides 5,900 square feet of space, including designated locker rooms, coaches’ offices, a training room and a second-floor observation deck. The building was unveiled to the field hockey team earlier in the month, in advance of preseason training, while the softball team got its first glimpse of the facility on Monday.
“The team’s reaction was priceless — the seniors are able to finish their career with the most amazing locker room possible, and the first years will never know any different,” softball head coach Jen Goodwin said. “I’m not sure there’s another place like this field house out there. I love being able to share with a recruit the meaning behind this building, and how it came to be. It truly shows young women that anything is possible with a Yale degree.”
Roberts, who played both field hockey and softball at Yale, gave the lead gift of $3 million for the new facility. She won a pair of Ivy League Championships in the blue and white before spending 36 years working at International Paper in Memphis, Tennessee. She retired in 2017 after five years as Chief Financial Officer.
Following her graduation from Yale, Roberts remained committed to Yale athletics, particularly to women’s teams. She served as a co-founder and board member of the Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Endowment and Resource, which supports Eli women’s varsity programs, and as a board member of the Yale Field Hockey Association. In 2009, the Athletic Department awarded her the George H.W. Bush ’48 Leadership Award.
“[Roberts] is setting a… really good, example for us of all the things that we can accomplish being student-athletes, women and graduating with a Yale degree,” outfielder Giovy Webb ’20 said.
After Roberts made her donation, other alumni and friends of Yale athletics stepped up to cover the remaining costs of the project. Fundraising for the project was complete by groundbreaking last August.
Prior to the opening of the Field House, both field hockey and softball were based at the Smilow Center, a ten-minute walk from the Johnson and DeWitt Family Fields. With an additional bus stop closer to the Carol Roberts Field House, members of the field hockey and softball teams can now go straight to their own locker rooms, with the sites of their practices and games just steps away. Previously, they would have to change and prepare in Smilow before carrying the necessary equipment to the fields.
“We lost five miles of walking just with preseason,” midfielder Olivia Levieux ’21 said. “It’s way more convenient and gives us the much-needed space to just focus on hockey and playing and preparation.”
The Smilow Center also houses several other Bulldog squads, and so teams must share locker rooms. The new field house changes that — now the field hockey and softball teams each have their own designated locker room, providing a physical and mental space to call their own.
“We’re going to cherish everything that we have,” pitcher Miranda Papes ’21 said. “In the locker room — and the space that we have with field hockey and we want to make that sisterhood stronger. We’re definitely trying to build this legacy that [the alumni] have left for us.”
On its social media channels, Yale field hockey released a video showing members’ reactions to their new home, as they toured the facility for the first time. Many players danced, grinning or with mouths agape and phones out to record the historic moment. Their tour concluded in the field hockey locker room, where new gear was already laid out in the players’ lockers.
“There’s no question that the field house is going to impact the program — it already has,” Stuper said. “It’s going to make a major difference in our players, both field hockey and softball, in how they prepare for practice and the facilities they have available during practice … The one thing the women are gaining is time back in their schedule.”
In addition to providing a space for players and coaches, the field house also serves family and fans. The viewing deck on the second floor features a glass-walled event space and will offer spectators views of both fields. Webb called it the best view in college softball.
Spectators will get their first look at the building when field hockey hosts Michigan State for its season opener on Sept. 3.
The Yale field hockey and softball teams played their first seasons in 1971 and 1979, respectively.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org