Turf Field Symbolic of ‘New Era’ in Athletics

The driving rain from tropical depression Ernesto subsided, the wind abated and the sun tried to reappear Saturday morning, Sept. 2, allowing Eastern Mennonite University to hold its dedication ceremony for its new artificial turf field as planned.

The prominent bright green turf field that served multiple purposes for athletic programs at EMU was replaced this summer after 17 years of heavy use.

dedication ceremony for EMUs newly-replaced turf field A celebrative dedication ceremony takes place Sept. 2 on EMU’s newly-replaced turf field.
Photo by Jim Bishop

EMU coaching staff, student athletes, donors and parents gathered on the field for a brief, celebrative program that included reflections on the old turf and the completion of the new.

“This [new] field will become one of the central hubs of campus community, creating enthusiasm and excitement for life on campus,” EMU athletic director David A. King told the gathering.

King thanked the university administration for “making the bold step of moving this turf project to the top of the facilities improvement list on campus.” He praised Eldon Kurtz, director of physical plant for “willingness to work cooperatively with the athletic department in finding efficient ways to complete the project economically,” to subcontractors Maust Enterprises and Goods Services and to “everyone who helped remove the old turf and joined in making this project a success.”

Replacement is a ‘Major Step’

King said the replacement of the old turf is “yet another major step toward the development of greater community envisioned for the EMU campus and the larger Rockingham County area.

“We’re keenly aware already of the power this facility has in drawing people together for wholesome recreation, family time, social interaction and athletic competition.”

The new turf field will be used for EMU women’s field hockey and men’s soccer contests, Ultimate Frisbee, an over-30 men’s soccer league being formed, intramurals and the Shenandoah Summer Soccer League, King noted.

Webb Cook, vice president of sales for A-Turf of Cheektowaga, N.Y., the firm that did the installation, noted that he’s “never before seen the athletic director of a college so ‘hands-on’ in a project, literally helping to remove the old turf.”

Kirk L. Shisler, vice president for advancement at EMU, thanked the more than 50 individuals and businesses who have contributed some $410,000 to date toward the $500,000 project. He said he expects the remainder of the needed funds to be raised by the end of 2006.

Brenda K. Bechler, current head field hockey coach, said the old bright green AstroTurf had become “an icon of EMU field hockey, helping enhance level of play regardless of the surface.”

During the past 17 years, EMU advanced to the Old Dominion Athletic Association (ODAC) championship game 11 times, bringing home nine conference titles. EMU had a third-place finish in the nationals in 1998 and ranked #1 in the nation for most of the 1999 season, she noted.

“With this new field, we’re ready for a new era. We are grateful for another opportunity to show the community what EMU field hockey is all about,” Bechler said.

Senior team co-captain Lisa L. Heavener echoed Bechler’s sentiments in thanking coaches, fellow players and donors “for providing a place where freshman and seniors can become close friends, for a field that enables this group of players to learn lessons and skills that will be carried with them throughout life and for the opportunity to join a team who lifts each other spiritually, leads each other through example and holds each other accountable.”

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber led a prayer of dedication to close the ceremony.

EMU played its first home field hockey contest on the new field that afternoon and blanked Dickinson College of Carlisle, Pa., 3-0.