Mansfield to get turf field, outdoor lighting
MANSFIELD - Mansfield University's past will meet it's future this September.
On Thursday, Mansfield held a press conference to announce that Karl Van Norman Field will be receiving a historic renovation beginning this spring just after commencement. The upgrades will include artificial turf and outdoor lightning for night games.
This will allow the Mountaineers to play their first night football game in 121 years. The facility will also be home to field hockey and give Women's soccer another field to use.
"It's very exciting," Interim President Dr. Allan Golden remarked. "I believe that Mansfield needs to provide the facilities to our students that can grow the whole university and make us a more attractive site for their higher education. I believe this kind of project will help make us more competitive in terms of students we need to recruit."
The renovation will be completed in August with the first competition to be held on the field on September 14 when field hockey hosts Shippensburg at 2 p.m.
Then at 7 p.m. that night the lights come back on at Mansfield as the Mounties host Princeton on Parent's Day.
Mansfield was the site of the first night game ever back on September 28, 1892 when they hosted Wyoming Seminary as part of the Great Mansfield Fair. Princeton brings even more history to the game having played in the first ever collegiate football game against Rutgers back in 1869.
Field hockey will host their first night game on October 5th with a 6:30 p.m. start against perennial PSAC power Bloomsburg while Women's soccer will host Goldey-Beacom on October 9th at 7 p.m.
This facility will also be used for practices as well as games.
"The fact that we can do things at night and not just during the day will help enhance the experience," Golden said "It gives our teams and other players to use the field 24-7. The ability to not be restricted to weather or daylight is just an added benefit to this kind of project."
Football coach Graham Johnsen believes this will help the Mountaineers move forward with their program.
"Its going to be a great opportunity to be able to move the program in the right direction," he said. "Being able to practice more effectively and efficiently."
He also believes this will help them compete better in a league where every other team plays on turf.
"It should help us in recruiting and it should help us with morale," Johnsen added.
That Saturday when they turn the lights on for the first time in over century will also be exciting for the Mountaineer football program. Some national media outlets have expressed an interest in covering the game, putting Mansfield on their biggest stage ever.
"It should be electric," Johnsen explained. "We're excited about that. I know the kids are excited. We're trying to get them a little geeked up already. We definitely want to take advantage of that platform."
Golden is also looking forward to that type of exposure.
"I think part of what we want to do is bring Mansfield to the attention to a much wider audience," he said. "The ability to use athletics as a way to get that name out there. Ultimately achieve the greater goal of attracting more and more students to Mansfield who may not be interested in athletics but just come to Mansfield for their college experience."
For field hockey and Women's soccer this means no more traveling to Lock Haven University to play 'home' games due to weather.
"It feels really good," field hockey Junior Sarah Zwick remarked. "Not having to travel all the time now is going to so much fun. We'll feel even better playing at night under our own lights."
Zwick played her whole career on turf so is used to that type of field.
"I came here and it was a grass field," she explained. "It was the same grass field my mom played on."
Zwick believes this will help draw more recruits to Mansfield, who, up till now, was the only Division II field hockey program that still played on grass.
"It's another home field advantage and I think that benefits anybody playing," she said. "We'll also be able to get more recruits and help build the program. It's only going to go up from there."
Junior soccer player Lauren Boess is also excited to be able to use the facility.
"It's a whole environment factor," she explained. "To be able to play in this stadium and not just on the field. I think already were looking forward to being able to play under the lights and even just to play on turf in general. I think definitely it will give us the motivation to do better next season."
Her coach Tim Dempsey believes this will help them with recruiting, too.
"Anytime you can show off a facility like this and offer the opportunity to play on either turf or grass," Dempsey said. "Having this as another venue to use and show a recruit, it's great."
Soccer will move between the turf field and their own field near by.
This has been a long, and sometimes difficult, project for those who have been with it since the beginning.
"To me it's absolutely amazing," Athletic Director Roger Mainser remarked. "I've been working on it for so many, many years and with so many people; so many students and so many student government groups. A long time in the works with a lot of people involved and we've finally come to fruitition for something we've needed for a long time."
Two years ago was a watershed moment for the project. A wetter than average fall forced field hockey and women's soccer to play many of their home games either at Lock Haven University.
"We had the worst fall ever two years ago and that probably helped this come to fruitition," Maisner said.
That showed how much Mansfield needed an upgrade.
And they've already seen the benefits to improving their facilities. Last fall they christened a new track and the team and recruits have increased.
"Track has already had a lot more committed from the fall of last year," Maisner remarked. "You build it and they will come. Like the new dorms are attracting students this will attract students."
This facility won't just affect Mansfield University as they have contacted the PIAA about using it for high school events.
"We hope so," Maisner said about using the field and track for high school events.
On September 14 it will be a very important moment for Maisner.
"It will be really special," he said. "It will be emotional. All the work many of us put into to this to finally see it done."
This wouldn't have been possible without the generosity of the students. The student activity donated $450,000 towards the facility.
"First our students are very generous," Golden said. "They are great students. I think they understand the significance of a project like this not just today but going into the future. They recognize the importance, the benefits, and the significance of this project."
Golden also believes this will excite their alumni.
"I think they're going to be incredibly excited," he said. "We have a very passionate group of alumni at Mansfield. They can say as alumni to have such pride in these kinds of projects."