Anasthasia Shilov, Illustrations Editor, and Zully Arias, Production and Design Editor

“Behind the Venue” is a series of feature-form articles that dives into the history, character and most memorable moments of Yale’s various athletic forums — from stadiums and fields to pools and boathouses. While not all articles in the series will resemble one another, all attempt to take a deeper look into how these places came to be and how they have fared over time. This article is the fifth in the series.

Reese Stadium, home to some of Yale athletics’ greatest triumphs in recent years, was erected in 1981 as the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium — a new venue for lacrosse and soccer competition. Renovated and renamed in 2011, the venue has also hosted professional competition for the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team, Women’s Professional Lacrosse League and the local Elm City Express soccer club. It served as the primary soccer venue for the 1995 Special Olympics World Games.

Centerbrook Architects, the same firm that designed the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, devised the stadium, which boasts seating for nearly 1,800 spectators, four air-conditioned team rooms, concessions, ticket offices, a press box and several alumni viewing areas. It has been home to some of Yale Athletics’ most profound moments.

“Reese Stadium, which is known to everyone in the college lacrosse and soccer worlds and loved by ESPN, has been an exciting venue that rocks with big crowds on game days,” Assistant Director of Strategic Communications Steve Conn told the News. “The place has seen many of the championship-clinching and record-breaking moments in the storied history of Yale sports.”

The brothers behind the venue

Jason Reese ’87 and Jon Reese ’90, whose surname the stadium bears, made donations alongside others to support the stadium’s 2011 renovation and dedication. 

However, the Reeses’ contributions to Yale extend far beyond their monetary donations. The eponymous duo were part of a dominant period for Yale men’s lacrosse, during which the Bulldogs collected three Ivy League titles. Individually, Jon Reese holds the Yale record for career points and once held the goals record until he was overtaken by Ben Reeves ’18. Jon Reese set the record for most goals in a season with 82, still good for the NCAA’s top spot to date. He collected his fair share of accolades accordingly, with several All-American and Ivy League awards to his name. The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee also captained the football team during his final year in New Haven. Jason Reese was a star goalie who also penciled his name in the Yale record books for career and season saves.

“That family has meant so much to Yale, which is why it’s so appropriate to have their name on the stadium,” Conn said, nearly a decade after the renovations and almost three decades following the brothers’ last steps as students.

Despite his numerous accolades and records as a midfielder, perhaps Jon Reese’s most defining moment as a student-athlete came not on the lacrosse field, but as a football player. Following hospitalization for a major car accident in which teammate and passenger Tony Guido ’90 claims Reese went through the steering column — losing half a dozen teeth, requiring a multitude of stitches and dislocating his elbow in the process — he suited up and took to the field with an Ivy championship on the line less than a week later.

At the time, Carm Cozza was the head men’s football coach for Yale.

“When I visited [Jon] in the hospital … there was no way I thought he’d play the rest of the year, let alone today,” Cozza told the News in 1989.

Yet, Reese recorded nine tackles that day after signing special waivers allowing him to play, and spectators claimed that he hardly looked like a man who had suffered severe injuries a week prior.

He initially begged the coaches just for the ability to dress for the game, but following his replacement’s injury during kickoff, Jon marched into play in a specially designed helmet. Following the game, he was immediately checked back into the hospital.

“I was afraid to take my mouth guard out because I thought I’d find my teeth laying in it,” Reese said in the post-game interview on November 4, 1989.

Nearly three decades later, Jon said that while no specific play may jump out from either field, one of the most special moments was getting the opportunity to play alongside Jason — a sentiment which both brothers share.

Jon only had the chance to share the field with Jason for one season, 1990, and despite being different individuals in separate positions, the two dazzled together.

“I could go on and on about those two,” former men’s lacrosse head coach Mike Waldvogel said. “When I was recruiting Jason I actually remember watching Jon in eighth grade. He is by far the greatest lacrosse player in Yale’s [history]. Recently there have been some other great ones but I can’t imagine anyone is more competitive. Jon motivated his teammates as all great leaders do.”

Following their graduation, both brothers ventured into the realm of finance. Jason Reese, who studied electrical engineering while in New Haven, went on to found Imperial Capital Asset Management, where he currently serves as CEO and chairman. Jon, who graduated with a degree in psychology, worked at Lehman Brothers and HSBC for nearly a dozen years until his departure and subsequent foray into philanthropy and lacrosse coaching. He was a recipient of the George H.W. Bush Lifetime of Leadership Award in 2019.

When Yale sought to renovate its fields, then Athletic Director Tom Beckett and President Richard Levin approached the two brothers, who said it was a no-brainer to give back to their alma mater and home.

“[Beckett and Levin] came to us and asked us to consider leading the investing effort and we decided we really wanted to give back to Yale, which was very good to us,” Jason told the News. “It was important for us to pay it forward.”

Breaking in the new field

Reese Stadium sits at the heart of Yale’s athletic complex, surrounded by the Yale Bowl, Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center and various other fields. Some of the greatest student-athletes to ever suit up for the Bulldogs have walked the field at Reese, including professional lacrosse athletes such as Reeves, Tyler Warner ’18 and Matt Gaudet ’20.

Having stood for nearly a decade, the renovated venue has been host to heartbreaks and triumphs, but the biggest moments in recent years include the men’s lacrosse team’s rout of UMass en route to its first national championship in 2018 and the men’s soccer team’s victory over Brown to claim the Ivy title in 2019.

“I could not have asked for a better senior day at Reese Stadium … [and winning] the first outright Ivy League title since 1991, in front of family, friends and fans, is an unbelievable feeling,” former men’s soccer captain Miguel Yuste ’20 told the News following the team’s crowning as Ivy champions last season.

The women’s lacrosse team also made strides in recent years in the renovated stadium, setting program records for goals and points in 2017.

Women’s lacrosse head coach Erica Bamford mentioned that the spectator seating so close to the bench adds to the unique experience of Reese.

“It feels like the fans are on the sideline cheering us on to victory,” Bamford said. “We are fortunate to have the luxury to play in a beautiful facility and have a place to call home thanks to the generosity of the Reese family.”

The venue has also seen its fair share of now-professional athletes from the women’s soccer team. Notably, Meredith Speck ’15 of the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League became one of just three Yalies to be named to the All-Ivy first team three times in her career. Her teammate, Elise Wilcox ’15, is also a notable alum. She posted a .5 goals against average as a goalkeeper, good for the No. 1 spot in program history and No. 2 across both men’s and women’s soccer. Wilcox has also etched her name into the NCAA Division I women’s soccer record book, with a .914 save percentage in 2014. 

Reese Stadium last saw official action in the form of a women’s lacrosse 11–10 victory over Brown on March 7, 2020.

Akshar Agarwal | akshar.agarwal@yale.edu