A new synthetic playing field will be ready for use in the fall of 2019, just in time for Kenyon’s fall sports season. McBride Field, the existing turf field, is currently shared by six programs: football, field hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s track and field. Both soccer teams occasionally use McBride as well. With no permanent lighting on McBride, afternoon practice is limited to 4 to 7 p.m. in the fall and 4 to 5:30 p.m. in early spring — which puts a squeeze on the more than 250 student athletes who use the field.
The new field will be constructed along Duff Street just west of the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC), in the area known as the Benson Bowl, and will include a reworking of nearby sidewalks to ease the walk up the Hill to South Campus. The project is made possible in part by the construction work at the West Quad, but a turf field for lacrosse and field hockey has been in the College’s plans for several years.
Head Coach Doug Misarti, who has led the men’s lacrosse team to postseason appearances in six of the past seven years, said, “we want to show our student-athletes that we value an academic and athletic balance at Kenyon. We’re at a bit of a tipping point: If we don’t address this need, we’ll start to lose some of the higher-level academic students that are also great athletes.”
When McBride is in use by another team, football players practice on a grass field and both lacrosse programs must move practice to Toan Track inside the KAC, which limits training to skill development and non-game simulation exercises.
Jess Fugate, head coach of women’s lacrosse, said her team benefits from practice on a full turf field because, “women’s lacrosse added a 90-second shot clock last year. We are in full, free movement up and down the field now. We have to be fast, and a new turf field will help us speed our game up.”
Over the last nine seasons, the Ladies lacrosse program has posted winning records eight times, won the NorthCoast Athletic Conference tournament once and advanced to the NCAA playoffs twice.
“Our program is on the rise and the pace of our game is changing,” said Ladies midfielder Katelyn Schwartz ’21. “Having a new field aligns with the goals of the team and the new playing style. ”
The new turf field will cost $2.3 million and is made possible by an anonymous lead gift of $1.8 million and gifts by nearly two dozen other alumni, parents and friends. This construction will include temporary bleachers, a scoreboard display and lines specifically marked for field hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse. The field will be 75 yards wide to host these varsity programs; McBride is 65 yards wide.
“We don’t really feel like the turf field at McBride is our own field,” said Avery Morgan ’20, also a Ladies midfielder. “It’s a field we can play on, but a lot of teams who come to play there get confused by the lines on the field because there are so many.”
Construction of this field follows the addition of a turf infield to Kenyon’s baseball field and improvements to Kenyon’s soccer facilities this year. Two practice fields were created this summer with the same sod used in many pro sports arenas.
Locating the new turf field in the Benson Bowl area will keep it out of the Kokosing River floodplain and give athletes easy access to the locker rooms in the KAC. Spectators also can easily use the existing parking and restrooms at the KAC, said Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman.
The project will benefit from fill dirt being removed from the construction of the Kenyon Commons in the West Quad. About 700 truckloads of material will be used to smooth the incline on walkways between the KAC and South Campus. At some points the sidewalks are now at a 25 percent slope, but the reworked sidewalks will have a grade ranging only from eight to 14 percent, Kohlman said.
“It will be a much more balanced climb up the Hill for both of the paths we are redoing,” Kohlman said.
As part of the regrading project, 15 small trees will be transplanted to other areas of campus. Four mature trees will be removed, three of which are either unhealthy or dying, Kohlman said.
Construction fencing will block the existing sidewalks up the Hill in the spring semester. Pedestrians can use the sidewalk along Duff Street.