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NU Sports To Get New Turf

Libby Nelson

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By Libby NelsonThe Daily Northwestern

A new lacrosse and soccer field will be built on Northwestern’s Lakefill next year so the existing field can be paved over for a new parking lot.

The field will have artificial turf and lights for night games, giving teams greater scheduling flexibility, NU spokesman Al Cubbage said.

A 410-space parking lot will replace the current lacrosse and soccer field.

The new field will be east of the Frances Searle building on Lake Michigan – the northern half of the area used for Dillo Day.

“It was really an issue of parking driving it,” Cubbage said of the new plan. “Obviously if you’re going to go into where the soccer fields are, you need a replacement as well.”

A price has not been settled for the project, which the Board of Trustees approved Monday, but Vice President of Business and Finance Eugene Sunshine estimated the cost as several million dollars.

The new field will have gates that can be opened for Dillo Day so the day’s activities can take place, Sunshine said, adding that the new turf might even make the event easier.

“The beauty of this thing is that it drains so well that you can do all kinds of events out there even in inclement weather or shortly after inclement weather stops,” Sunshine said.

Construction will begin right after lacrosse season ends in spring 2007 and should be finished by the fall, Cubbage said. He added that there is no contingency plan if the construction runs over deadline.

Athletic Director Mark Murphy said that the department has needed the new fields for some time, but agreed that the parking lot changes drove the university’s decision.

“This is something we’ve had a need for, and it really just worked out that it made sense for both of us to do it this way,” Murphy said.

The current lacrosse and soccer field has natural grass.

Artificial turf can support more wear and tear, opening its use up to club and intramural teams as well, Murphy said.

The addition of lights means that soccer and lacrosse teams will be able to play night games, which Murphy said should improve student attendance.

Athletes will no longer have to miss class to play afternoon games.

The new field will also have sliding bleachers that both it and the adjoining field hockey field will use. However, according to Sunshine, there are no plans for providing much additional seating or a press box.

“It’s exciting, because it’s a win for everybody,” Murphy said. “I think the net gain in terms of parking spots is pretty significant … and from our department in terms of both athletics and recreation, we feel it’ll be much better.”

Associated Student Government President Jay Schumacher briefly discussed the plans with the Senate during Wednesday’s meeting.

“We will search to maintain a balance between athletic needs and the needs of student groups,” Schumacher said, mentioning Dillo Day and CaribNation as events that previously took place on this stretch of the Lakefill.

Both Sunshine and Murphy emphasized the field’s utility to students who are not varsity athletes.

“We’re very pleased to be able to provide a wonderful field for the varsity athletes, but equally important to us is the wonderful field that will be equally accessible to the clubs and intramural athletes and even regular students,” Sunshine said.

Reach Libby Nelson at libbynelson@northwestern.edu.

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