The 650 new and returning students at Southern Virginia University this semester will begin using three new fields constructed on 17-acres of university-owned land adjacent to campus. The fields will be used by the entire student body for activities and by scholar-athletes as practice and game fields.
The new project, known as The Fields at Southern Virginia University, consists of two new grass fields and an artificial turf field surrounded almost entirely by beautiful trees and lush Shenandoah Valley mountains. The undertaking combined the vision of Glade Knight, chair of the university’s board of trustees, with the able oversight of Athletic Director Tom Longenecker.
“This is a perfect location for these fields, and I cannot imagine that there are any fields in a more beautiful setting,” Chairman Knight said.
A generous family in Utah donated land for the fields to the university in the late 90s. Construction began shortly thereafter as workers cleared trees from a 13-acre site with the intent of building a field and stadium. After the trees were gone and the land was mostly cleared, work on the fields was halted for nearly a decade while the university invested its resources in academics and other areas. Anonymous donations allowed the university to resume construction in 2007.
“These fields will immediately bless the lives of all of our students who will be able to use them on a daily basis, along with our scholar-athletes, intramural competitors, EFY attendees and athletic camp participants,” said Southern Virginia President Rodney K. Smith. “We are grateful to the donors who made this possible, knowing that the fields will improve practice conditions and provide an idyllic setting for other activities, including student ward home evening groups.”
Field one is designed for athletic practices, intramurals and other student, faculty and staff activities. Field two is the size of a regulation football field and will be used for football or other team practice. The artificial turf field, number three, is used for football practice and also serves as a practice and game field for the men’s and women’s soccer teams and the club lacrosse team, with regulation lines marking the specific size for each sport.
Of his experience overseeing the construction of the fields and the road that leads to them, Longenecker said, “On a daily basis I saw how important and beautiful work is done one shovel-full at a time. It reminded me of our mission to build leader-servants one step at a time.”
Tim Meyer, a senior at Southern Virginia, who heard about the plans to build new fields when he first started playing football here, is thrilled to finally use them.
“The incoming freshmen and transfers are lucky to have the opportunity to begin their collegiate athletic careers using these state-of-the-art facilities. We have one of the newest and best turf fields money can buy,” Meyer said.
Made from the same turf as fields at the University of Michigan and the University of Utah, field three is the biggest of the three, covering 88,000 square feet. To begin construction on the fields, workers literally moved a mountain and laser-graded the dirt, making sure the ground was perfectly level. A drainage system was installed on field three to quickly absorb rainwater, after which a twelve-inch-tall concrete border was poured around the field’s perimeter. The field then was filled with 8 inches of gravel, on top of which workers laid 10-yard wide strips of artificial turf that were stitched together using industrial sewing machines. Alternating layers of sand and rubber were added on top of the turf, which, after settling, provides both structure and cushion to the field.
Whitni Watkins, a senior on the women’s soccer team said that on “these fields you can actually anticipate the pass long before it’s made. You don’t have to worry about it making a random bounce.”
Future development at the fields could include a scoreboard, lights and a modest stadium that would seat between 800 and 1,200.
“When we raise the money necessary to install lights, we will see a major benefit to the university academically,” President Smith said. “Lights will allow teams to use the fields after dark, which will help us extend the academic day and hold classes later into the afternoon and evening to get better use out of our academic facilities.”
The university has spent the past two years planning and working with contractors and the city of Buena Vista to complete the project. Though field three is already in use, the grass on fields one and two needs at least three more weeks to take root. Between the football team, men’s and women’s soccer teams, and the lacrosse team, field three was used nearly 12 hours per day during August. In addition, sand leftover from the turf field has been used to create a beach volleyball court that all students will be able to use.
“It’s breathtaking up here and we intend to keep it that way,” Longenecker said. “But because we are so close to nature, athletes from other schools aren’t the only opponents the Knights will face—we also have to watch out for deer and other wildlife that make frequent appearances.”