Preliminary plans are in place for upcoming improvements to the playing field and track at Don Shula Stadium at Wasmer Field. The project will include laying down new turf and rebuilding and resurfacing the entire track structure.
Carol Dietz, JCU’s associate vice president of facilities, said the track has been unusable for meets for a number of years because of poor drainage and ripples in the track surface.
“It’s a huge improvement,” she said.
Members of the track and field teams expressed concerns that they would receive a lesser grade of track. Dietz said the University, through the department of athletics and finance office, budgeted the project as a replacement for the turf and track.
“The track coaches, quite frankly, have been wined and dined by a lot of the manufacturers’ reps for some really high-end products, like what they use in Olympic stadiums,” she said. “Unfortunately, they think they should have what they have at the Olympics and all I’m saying is that’s not what we have now. [The project] was never budgeted for that.”
JCU Director of Athletics and Recreation Laurie Massa said that while budget constraints may prevent the University from getting the highest-end products, the results should impress.
“The scope of this project and the improvements for all programs involved should alleviate any feelings of disappointment,” she said.
Dietz said the University is working with a track consultant to help them specify different products for the track. The consultant was a former Olympian.
“He would never recommend to us a product that was subpar,” Dietz said. “We would never put anything in that wasn’t NCAA approved.”
The long jump and other field areas may also be moved to another location within the facility, said Dietz.
According to Massa, individuals and groups involved in the planning process include club sports and recreation, soccer, football, track and field and equipment and athletic training. Coaches for sports that use the field have provided input about what kind of turf they liked at different schools they have competed against. According to some, the current turf at Shula Stadium is in poor shape.
“The turf was coming apart at all the seams and it was becoming a hazard to the players,” said Hector Marinaro, head coach of JCU’s men’s soccer team. “The new turf will give a truer bounce. The old turf gave off a dead bounce.”
Along with a new playing surface for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams, the dimensions of the soccer playing field will change. NCAA rules give a range of dimensions that fields must fall between. Currently, the soccer field is 120 yards long and 68 yards wide. After installation of the new turf, the field will be set at 115 yards long and 72 yards wide.
“The wider surface will enable us to spread teams out offensively and, hopefully, create more gaps in the defense, which will lead to more scoring,” Marinaro said.
Dietz and Massa believe students will like the new improvements once the work is complete.
“I think it’s really going to improve the student experience whether you just do intramurals, club sports, or regulation varsity sports because everything will be new,” Dietz said.
Massa also noted that the men’s and women’s track and field teams will be able to host meets at Don Shula Stadium.
“The improvements will provide us the opportunity to host track meets for the first time in years, and provide safe practice and competitive venues for a variety of varsity, club and intramural activities,” she said. “When the improvements are complete, the intent would be to host multiple events at the stadium. The design firm has assured us that the specifications are NCAA and OAC compliant, and the product choices meet specifications as well.”
Marinaro said he expects students will get a thrill out of soccer games on the new turf.
“With the shorter and wider field, I think scoring will be up and will make for more entertaining games for the students attending our games,” he said.
The improvements to the track and field at Shula Stadium will also help recruiting efforts.
“When you tell a recruit that JCU is spending [a significant amount of money] renovating the field that they will be using, it really carries some weight,” Marinaro said. “Who doesn’t want to play on a brand new, state-of-the-art field?”
Due to the improvements, JCU plans to close Shula Stadium in late April and re-open it in early August in time for the start of fall sports practices, Dietz said.