Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Construction underway on soccer stadium and art annex projects

Winter winds blow, snow flurries fly, but construction crews keep pushing ahead with DU’s new $9.2 million soccer stadium, training center and art annex.

The driver is the soccer piece of the project — stadium, field and lights. This has to be ready for the ball to drop by the afternoon of Aug. 28, when DU’s women’s team takes to the pitch against the Gaels of Saint Mary’s College. The men’s team plays Stanford the next day.

The games are set; the clock is ticking.

“We plan to finish the stadium and related field work by the middle of August,” vows University Architect Mark Rodgers.

The final parts — an 11,000-square-foot strength and conditioning center and a 12,500-square-foot art annex — will be open and available by November at the latest, he says.

The art annex is the newcomer, attached to the stadium project to achieve cost-effectiveness, Rodgers says. The one-story, garden-level annex will be attached to the southwest corner of the Ritchie Center and used as studio space for drawing and painting. It will be tucked partly into the ground and feature a large skylight and side windows to allow the natural light artists crave and provide “a lovely glow element in the evening,” Rodgers says.

“When it was suggested that the art annex would be pretty empty space — a little bit of a warehouse feeling with raw concrete — the faculty cheered. That’s what they want,” says Annette Stott, director of the School of Art and Art History. “It’s a space that you don’t have to be careful of. It’s a space where you can make art and do what you need to do.”

The whole faculty is excited, she added. “This is great for the art department.”

Soccer players agree.

“It’s a really good way to connect the educational side with the athletic side,” says center midfielder Collin Audley. In 2008, Audley and his teammates finished atop the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and qualified for the NCAA tournament. They can’t wait to kick off their new season in a new stadium.

Plans call for a stadium to resemble the present Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium but face west, its back against the Ritchie Center. There will be 1,771 seats plus a standing-room area for a total capacity of 1,915.

“It will be a first-class facility that will allow us to showcase our soccer programs,” says Stu Halsall, assistant vice chancellor for Recreation, Athletic Events and Ritchie Center Operations.

The stadium will have a new scoreboard, lights set up to allow games to be televised, and a public address system. The top of the stadium will be on the same level as the entrance to the Ritchie Center, giving soccer fans access to interior restrooms and concessions.

“When the sun goes down, it could be one of the nicest views in college athletics,” says men’s soccer coach Bobby Muuss.

But a lighted stadium does more than provide comfort for fans, Muuss points out. Night games ramp up DU’s ability to schedule top opponents, which builds fans both on campus and off. Players play harder under the lights before a crowd, and youngsters from the soccer-rich Denver sports community can attend games with their parents and coaches more often than at present. Attendance helps establish a strong connection with DU players and eases recruiting local talent later on.

Moreover, having a stadium allows the University to bid to be an NCAA tournament site, which would further cement ties with the Denver soccer community.

“We want to show kids what college soccer is all about,” Muuss says, noting that the program is working to build a winning tradition, and “It takes pioneers to do it.”

It also takes hard work in the strength and conditioning center, which is to be built into the body of the stands. A state-of-the-art facility with new strength equipment, the center will be available to athletes in all 17 DU Division I sports. It will replace crowded space in the Ritchie Center and provide opportunities for training to enhance team unity and performance, prevent injuries and aid recovery.

The strength center could help recruit athletic talent, coaches say, and the art annex artistic talent.

“The space will make many things possible that we haven’t been able to do before,” Stott says.

For one thing, the annex takes the school one step closer to reinstating its Master of Fine Arts program. It will unclog the Shwayder Art Building and improving the school’s ability to attract top-notch students and accomplished faculty. She notes that classes could start in the annex in January 2010.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity,” she says. “We’re looking forward to it.”

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