Athletics & Recreation / Current Issue / Magazine Feature

New soccer stadium kicks off

Aug. 28 was a banner day for the DU soccer program. Not only did the women’s team win its first home game of the season, but it did so under the lights in the brand new University of Denver Soccer Stadium, a $9.2 million complex that’s been in the works since fall 2008. Construction began in winter 2009.

“We’re very fortunate here at the University of Denver that the Ritchie Center provides many of our sports programs with first-class facilities,” says Stu Halsall, assistant vice chancellor for recreation, athletic events and Ritchie Center operations. “I think the soccer stadium adds that for our soccer program. For student-athletes, for alumni, for future players coming in, it’s a great home. The whole energy and excitement around the program has drastically increased.”

The 1,915-seat stadium has lights for night games and a public address system. The top of the stadium is on the same level as the entrance to the Ritchie Center, giving soccer fans access to interior restrooms and concessions.

A lighted stadium does more than provide comfort for fans. 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, coaches say, and youngsters from the soccer-rich Denver sports community can attend games with their parents and coaches more often when they take place at night. Attendance helps establish a strong connection with DU players.

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,” says men’s soccer coach Bobby Muuss, noting that the program is working to build a winning tradition. “It takes pioneers to do it.”

In addition to the stadium, the project includes an 11,000-square-foot strength and conditioning center and a 12,500-square-foot art annex, both of which will be open by mid-December. The one-story art annex will be attached to the southwest corner of the Ritchie Center —- behind the Shwayder Art Building — and used as studio space for drawing and painting. It will be tucked partly into the ground and will feature a large skylight and side windows to allow the natural light artists crave.

The state-of-the-art strength and conditioning center, which is built into the body of the stands, 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.

While the strength and conditioning center helps coaches build a better team, it’s hoped the new stadium will build a bigger fan base for Pioneers soccer.

“Right now we’re averaging 1,000 fans a game — it’s something that our players at home have never experienced,” Muuss says. “Playing at night and really being able to expose the Denver soccer community as well as the Denver student body to DU soccer — it’s a win-win for everybody.”

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