The Duke Forward campaign’s conclusion is still more than three years away, but Duke athletics will reap the benefits of the initiative’s fundraising success in the coming months.
Construction continues on three new fields, which will be located on Bassett Drive across the street from Koskinen Stadium. The new fields—two turf and one grass—will be utilized as new practice locations for Duke’s men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s lacrosse teams.
“We have as much flexibility in field usage as we’ve ever had here, so we’re really excited about it,” said Mike Cragg, Duke’s Deputy Director of Athletics for Operations. “Everything we’ve had as far as practice fields in the past have been pretty mediocre. These will all be world-class as far as drainage, lines and safety.”
After an unseasonably wet summer, which included the second wettest month of June in North Carolina since 1895, construction crews have been pushed three weeks behind schedule, but Cragg said Duke’s athletic department is still targeting a Nov. 1 completion date. The fields should be playable shortly after.
One of the new fields’ biggest advantages will be a superior drainage system, which will keep the practice surfaces dry even during Durham’s soggy spring and summer.
“It’s a huge upgrade,” said Bob Weiseman, Duke’s Director of Athletic Facilities. “One of the biggest problems on these fields previously was that there was a lot of undulation in the grass and there was no drainage. Once it rained, they were basically useless for two or three days.”
The practice facility will include storage areas and video rooms for the use of Duke’s varsity athletics programs. The fields are equipped with nine video cameras, all of which will be wired back to a central control room, so teams can further analyze videotapes from their practices.
The new practice fields could even be used for regular season games in the event that Koskinen Stadium’s field is rendered unplayable by inclement weather. This feature is especially important following ACC expansion, when teams like Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame will travel longer distances at greater expense to play in Durham. Thanks to its drainage system, the new practice fields will help prevent the cancellation of games.
“When we planned the lining program for these fields, we made them so that by NCAA rules, right now, you could play,” Weiseman said.
The soccer program will also enjoy the flexibility of being able to practice on both turf and grass during the season. As the ACC expands further into the Northeast this season, both soccer teams will utilize the turf surfaces to prepare to play at Pittsburgh and Boston College, which both use artificial surfaces for games.
Varsity athletes will not be the lone beneficiaries of Duke’s facility upgrades. The new fields will also be used for a number of Duke’s club sports teams, including rugby, soccer, lacrosse and ultimate frisbee, as well as intramural sports.
A monitoring system is also being set up so that students can use their DukeCards to access the fields for recreational use as well.
The opening of Duke’s new grass and turf practice fields will be the first domino to fall in a long sequence of facility upgrades funded by the Duke Forward initiative, which had raised $156 million of its $250 million goal to date.
Once the new practice fields are completed, Duke will be able to begin construction on the new Williams Track and Field Stadium, which will be located at the site of the soccer and lacrosse teams’ current turf practice fields next to Koskinen Stadium. Williams Stadium is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014, and the track at Wallace Wade Stadium will be removed following the 2013 football season.
Tom Coffman, Duke’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development, said in an email that Duke’s new practice fields are among the areas that can be named by donors who make gifts at certain levels, but they have yet to receive any commitments for the unnamed practice fields at this point.
Although these three practice fields are just small step in a number of large projects that will reshape Duke’s athletic facilities in the coming years, the upcoming completion of the University’s first major project has begun to shift the focus toward the future.
“For Duke, it’s going to be a perfect fit,” Cragg said. “It will be the perfect blend of priorities of our school as far as providing excellent student-athlete experience.”