Field of dreams offers new verve for athletes

GW’s tennis, soccer and women’s varsity lacrosse teams will have a home to call their own when new fields and tennis courts open at the Mount Vernon Campus in late July.

The teams used alternate fields for practice and home games in the past
few years. Soccer and tennis teams drive as far as 30 miles away for home games and regularly practice and play in remote locations at George Mason University in Virginia and RFK Stadium’s auxiliary fields in Southeast D.C.

When GW unveils its new facilities in the fall, Mount Vernon will house 12 new tennis courts, a new field for soccer and lacrosse games, a softball field, a new pool, new parking facilities and state-of-the-art locker room facilities under the courts, said Tony Vecchione, assistant athletic director for facilities.

“It’s going to be really neat,” Vecchione said. “It will be something the University has been waiting for, for a long time. It will enhance the programs by providing them with a home field and court opportunities they haven’t had before.”

University officials said they hope the tennis courts will be ready by mid-July. The tennis teams have been holding practices on the F Street courts next to Gutheridge Hall.

Six of the 12 tennis courts are outdoors, and six will be bubbled for indoor play, allowing teams to practice and compete in the rain. The tennis facilities will also function as a tennis club, which will be open to the public, allowing residents from the neighborhood to play or watch.

Under the courts will be men’s and women’s locker rooms and additional parking spaces, which Vecchione said will allow spectators to attend games with fewer hassles.

Vecchione said the new soccer and lacrosse field should be ready by mid-July in time for preseason practice for the men’s and women’s soccer teams, women’s varsity lacrosse team and men’s club lacrosse.

The teams will practice and compete on the field, which is made of a new turf called tuff.

“You have to see to believe,” women’s soccer coach Tanya Vogel said about the material.

Tuff looks and feels like grass. It is soft, dark and green, but it is a synthetic substance reduces wear on the ground and prevents reseeding.

The field will allow spectators a better view than a stadium because the field is lower than its surroundings. The setup will have the look of a field, rather than a stadium – in response to concerns from neighbors, Vecchione

Railroad ties separate the spectator and field levels.

“It’s a great look for campus,” Vogel said.

The new complex also includes a softball field, which will be used by the women’s club softball team. It is scheduled to be ready sometime in the fall of 2001, Vecchione said. A new pool is not expected to be finished until summer 2002.

The soccer, tennis and lacrosse teams anticipate the long-awaited renovations of courts and fields at Mount Vernon.

“We are so excited,” Vogel said. “I played here and did the field-hopping thing for a while. This will be the first time since 1993 GW’s soccer has had a home.”

Vogel said a home field provides a place to get “psyched up” before games and to relax afterwards.

“It will give us a genuine feeling of a college soccer team, and I can’t wait,” Vogel said. “It’s hard to get up for a game 30 miles away. We are anxious to have fan support at home and have that transpire into good play.”

Men’s soccer head coach George Lidster said his teams have had five or six home fields in his five years at GW, including South Riding field in Loudoun County, Va., which is past Dulles Airport.

He said the team welcomes a home-field advantage.

“It will give the program a real shot in the arm,” Lidster said. “Players can have fans watch them play.”

Lidster said fans are like a basketball team’s sixth man because they add intensity to the game.

“For the first time, we’ll have that,” Lidster said. Lidster said he hopes the new facility will help recruiting because the training facility will be an attractive incentive to GW soccer.

“We now have a place we can call our own,” Lidster said.
GW baseball coach Tom Walter has said remote practice facilities drive away possible recruits. The GW baseball team plays at Barcroft Park in Arlington, Va. The University does not provide transportation to the games, so most fans are family members with cars.

Women’s tennis also expects the new facility to boost recruiting because of its impressive assets.

“We’ve gone from an F to and A,” former women’s tennis coach Jeanne Gengler-Swiacki said. Gengler-Swiacki resigned May 3 to spend more time with her family.

Gengler-Swiacki said having a home court allows GW to host tournaments and raise money.

But another reason behind the new facilities is GW’s marketing strategy aimed at drawing students to live at the campus, Vecchione said..

Vecchione said he expects the renovations at Mount Vernon to illustrate how Mount Vernon has come alive. He said he also expects the new facilities to increase student interest and fan support.

Vogel said the new facilities will foster a positive effect in the GW community.

“We have an attractive product and some excellent players,” Vogel said. “Hopefully people will jump on the bandwagon and support us.”

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