Athletic field improvements delayed until late this summer

Eastern’s new turf athletic field that was supposed to be built this spring has been postponed for money reasons.

Athletics director Harry Gutelius assures that, as far as the field itself is concerned, the situation is nothing to worry about.

“It’s simply a delay,” he said, “and by the time Homecoming rolls around, our dreams should be reality.”

But until then, parking will be a bigger problem than it has ever been before.

“Virtually the entire gym lot will be unavailable to us this fall, for the duration of the project,” said campus security director John Sheehan.

The final cost for the project was higher than initially expected, and Eastern was not quite financially ready to go through with the project.

“And now we absolutely, positively are ready,” Gutelius said.

Field Turf, the contractor Eastern is planning to use for constructing the new field, is scheduled to begin work on August 1 and finish by October 8, in time for the Homecoming games.

The workers will use most of the gym parking lot as a staging area for the construction, eliminating about 70 parking spaces, according to Sheehan.

To alleviate the parking troubles until the field is finished, Eastern will rent an additional 50 spaces at Valley Forge Military Academy’s lot, bringing the total to 100 spots there. It will no longer be for first-years only.

“[The project] will require the displacement of some students,” Sheehan said. “And some people will be denied parking privileges.” It will be more important than ever to apply for a permit early, he said, as they will be awarded on a first-come first-served basis.

In the meantime, a number of different groups and organizations who were hoping to rent the turf field will have to settle for the natural surface. “We’re going to give them free rein to use the field this summer,” Gutelius said. “It’s going to beat the field to a pulp, but that’s okay, because on August 1, it will be dug up.”

Gutelius credits Meggin Capers, the director of conferences, with making these new arrangements with those who wanted to rent the turf field, “accommodating them for this summer, with the agreement that they’ll use it next summer.”

Gutelius was also eager to show his appreciation to everyone involved in bringing the new turf to Eastern, including athletics coordinator Mark Wagner, campus services director Rob Smith, Rick Eisenstaedt and Derek Ritchie in development for their work in fund-raising, vice president of finance and accounting Wes Bryan, vice president of student development Bettie Ann Brigham and president David Black.

“I think it’s important to know that it’s really a team effort,” Gutelius said. “Without them there’s no way this field ever happens.”

With reporting by news editor Ben Carr.

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