Behind the Venue: Two decades of Johnson Field
For 20 years, Johnson Field has been home to Yale field hockey and has functioned as a unique space for women’s sports at Yale. From 2000 to 2008, it also housed Yale women’s lacrosse.
Anasthasia Shilov, Iluustrations 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 13th in the series.
When the Yale field hockey team formed in 1970, the club sport played on a field outside of the Yale Bowl known as “Parking Lot A.” Now, the field hockey team occupies the first Yale building solely for female athletes, the Carol Roberts Field House, which is located next to Johnson Field, their official venue.
From 2000 to 2008, Johnson Field housed Yale women’s lacrosse in addition to the field hockey team, which began using the field in 2001. The women’s lacrosse team now calls Reese Stadium home. Named after Charles B. Johnson ’54, the royal blue and white field is situated next to the newly added Carol Roberts Field House, which was completed in 2018. Roberts ’81 played field hockey and softball and continues to contribute to the field hockey team.
“Now that I’m here, I feel like Johnson Field means a lot to us just because it’s our own space,” Yale field hockey goalkeeper Luanna Summer ’24 said in an interview with the News. “A lot of the other fields are shared by different teams but since Johnson Field is our own, especially with the [Carol Roberts Field House], it feels like our own.”
Situated next to the Field House and near a forested area, Johnson Field has an official capacity of 750 spectators and features a lighting system that allows night play. With a square footage of 93,600, the Astroturf pitch was installed in 2013. Behind each goal and over the darker blue turf just off the pitch itself are white letters spelling out “YALE.”
Alumni associations and additions
Prior to the construction of the Carol Roberts Field House three years ago, field hockey members utilized the Smilow Field Center, a shared space among Yale Athletics.
“It was not like we were kind of neglected and had this tiny corner somewhere. We had a really nice locker room in Smilow, but it was like we already had to get 15 minute buses to the [Smilow Field House] and then it was another 10 minute walk from there out to the field itself from the Field House,” field hockey team captain Imogen Davies ’22 said. “It all kind of added up timewise and was a little inconvenient.”
Opened in 2018 and designed by KG+D Architects, the Carol Roberts Field House opened for both the field hockey team and women’s softball. Within the facility are locker rooms, a training room, a meeting room and a coaches’ office. The Field House sits between the venue for both teams and athletics buses drop athletes off directly at the facility.
A balcony area that hosts conferences sits on the second floor of the Carol Roberts Field House and also provides a space to view games. Prior to the construction of the field house, families would often spend time at Smilow or the parking lot for tailgates. Now, fans can tailgate and view games simultaneously without having to move locations.
Davies noted that Johnson Field was not a major factor in her decision to choose Yale, but added that hearing about the plans for the Carol Roberts Field House did help. For Davies, the house is a “special” place for her because Roberts is a female athlete as well as a benefactor.
“As much as the financial investment was a huge thing for our team, it’s also the time and energy that [Roberts] puts into our team,” Davies said. “Not just her, but all of our alumni as well.”
Davies noted that Roberts and other members of the Yale Field Hockey Association, an alumni group, are actively involved in the team and regularly check up on team members.
Last week, the field hockey team presented members of the original class of 2021 with rings that feature the coordinates of Johnson Field engraved on the outside. The insides of the rings are engraved with seniors’ playing numbers and the phrase “YFH for Life.”
Summer had heard of necklaces that the gymnastics team had gifted their senior team members and was inspired to do something similar for field hockey.
“The senior class has done so much for us and just with their season being cancelled,” Summer said, “It was a team effort, a team idea. We just wanted to give them a little token of our appreciation, which is a fraction of what we could give them.”
The rings were presented during a recent field hockey practice at Johnson Field.
A storied field: Colors and camps
Johnson Field’s turf is set apart from other schools with its large exterior area of dark blue turf surrounding the inner, royal blue pitch. Davies describes the turf, which is only 8 years old, as being at a “perfect stage” between a new, bouncy texture and being worn out.
“Some teams have told us when they play us that they find it really hard, [for] their eyes to adjust to the field,” Davies said.
The field’s location near the northwestern edge of the Yale Athletic Fields also differentiates the field from some colleges’ whose venues are situated in urban areas. Within the field, few buildings are visible and no cars can be heard.
The venue can still be improved, though. Davies discussed the idea of how a new scoreboard, similar to the one used at Reese Stadium, would upgrade the venue.
“You go places with a really cool video scoreboard and I think that would add a new level to our facility,” Davies described. “If there were something to add, that would probably be the one thing. Apart from that, we really have everything that we could possibly need or want.”
Outside of Yale varsity sports, Johnson Field has been used by other field hockey teams. The field is one of the two Yale facilities used by World Class Sports Baseball and Field Hockey Camps, which field hockey head coach Pam Stuper helps facilitate.
Field hockey midfielder Rachel Brown ’24 attended one of these camps and played on Johnson Field with Yale field hockey players before applying to Yale. For her, the glass doors leading out of the Carol Roberts Field House towards Johnson Field were her favorite part of the venue.
“Whenever I walk in there, now that I have so many memories of going to that camp when I wasn’t [at] Yale, it always is such a shock to my system to be like, ‘Oh, I am that college athlete that I specifically aspired to be earlier on,’” Brown describes. “The area associates very much with this desire, and now this accomplishment.”
The field hockey team of Sacred Heart University has also used Johnson Field as its home field although the Pioneers have been competing at Sacred Heart’s Campus Field for the past year.
Johnson Field is located at 70 Central Ave. in New Haven.