Renovations to James Egli Field, home to the Slippery Rock University men’s and women’s soccer team, is currently in the final stages of being completed, according to the University’s Athletic Director, Paul Lueken.
The project, which Lueken said was a year-and-a-half planning project, has been underway since the fall of 2017, when upgraded bleachers with railings were added to ensure safety to spectators attending games. The bleacher upgrades, now completed, were the first part of the renovations done to Egli Field. The most recent renovations to the soccer field include a whole new press box added along the sideline for members of Rock Athletics to work during the games.
Although the press box is making good progress, there are still minor details that need to be taken care of before it is 100% complete, Lueken said. “There are some repairs that need to be made on the ground surrounding the press box,” Lueken said.
“But we haven’t been able to make much progress recently because of the amount of rain we have gotten recently.”
For the soccer field renovations, Lueken said that a percentage of the money that funded the project came from donations by alumni from both the men’s and women’s soccer team. However, more than half of the funding did come from the University itself.
The total amount of money spent on the soccer field’s renovations was not mentioned but can be estimated to have cost just under $300,000, according to a 2017 article written by The Rocket.
In addition to James Egli Field being renovated, the SRU Softball Complex is also currently undergoing some improvements to its field. Lueken said the renovations to the complex are currently behind schedule, something that frustrates him because it is out of his control.
“The only real reason we are behind schedule is because of the weather,” said Lueken, chuckling. “I always say, ‘Mother Nature is undefeated.’ With that being said, the softball field will be complete by the start of the season.”
The renovations to the complex feature a new mixture of dirt and sod to both the infield and outfield. The infield is pretty much done because it is dirt, but the outfield is delayed because of the rain, Lueken said.
“The grass out in the outfield needs time to sit and grow and that can’t be done when the outfield is currently flooded,” Lueken explained.
The renovations to the complex were completely University funded and cost about $300,000.
Lueken said that he has not experienced any sort of backlash as a result of spending University money on updating athletic fields. He said that he thinks the University and the Slippery Rock Community understand that there are a number of reasons why these renovations need done. The administration has gone about the upgrades in a way that the Alumni Association and the Foundation support, Lueken said.
Lueken said the renovations being done do not just benefit the current student-athletes.
“When these renovations are complete, we will be able to more regularly host tournament games such as the PIAA high school playoffs,” Lueken explained. “This will allow high school students to see our University and the quality of our athletic fields, and to the extent in which we take care of them. These upgrades really benefit the entire University.”
Lueken said once the soccer and softball fields are completed, there a number of other projects that the SRU community can expect to see in the near future. Jack Critchfield Park, home to the SRU baseball team, has had much of the same problems as the SRU Softball Complex has, in that, the outfield does not drain, Lueken said.
Lueken said the athletic department is in the process of talking to the Slippery Rock Community, student co-op, and Butler County Tourism to address installing artificial turf to the athletic fields to make them more “useable,” especially in the Spring. Lueken said that there are “athletic renovations” in the works that go along with the University’s master plan, primarily focused on updating Morrow Field House, home to the SRU men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the location of the University’s commencement ceremonies, held every fall and spring semester. Lueken said he is collaborating with Scott Albert, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Planning at SRU, on the updates to the field house. The renovations, at the moment are primarily focused on updating the air conditioning units within the field house, as well as a redesign of all of the locker rooms, he said. These renovations are about five to six years off, Lueken explained.
Overall, Lueken said that although he is frustrated with the weather, he is “very pleased” with the progress being made on the renovations.