By Mary Keister
Two new sports teams could be added to Beloit’s roster by the spring of 2013, according to a proposal put forth by the college in conjunction with the athletic department.
If funding comes together within the next few weeks, the college plans to renovate the track at Strong Stadium, install a turf field at the location of the current football field, and add two lacrosse teams — one men’s, one women’s — to the sports teams already offered.
The idea for a lacrosse team rose out of discussions about renovating the track and putting in a turf field. Improving the track has been a conversation the school has had for almost a decade, according to Director of Athletics and Recreation Peggy Carl. Renovating the track would involve driving over the field, so it made sense to replace the field with turf since the field would have to be fixed anyway.
The benefit of having a turf field, President Scott Bierman said, is that it can be used year-round and can withstand the occasionally harsh Midwest climate. The field could be used for football and also for ultimate frisbee. A turf field is also convenient for playing lacrosse in the Midwest, and thus the lacrosse proposal was conjoined with the proposal for the turf field. Without the turf field, the teams could not exist.
Construction on the track and the turf field could potentially begin as early as late this spring if funding is finalized within the next few weeks. If the funding can’t be pulled together in the next few weeks, then construction may be pushed to late next spring. The work on the track and field must be done over the summer because teams cannot use the space while it is under construction.
If the funding for the project is completed early this spring, then the athletic department could hire coaches — two head coaches and two assistant coaches — as soon as this spring. That would allow the coaches to spend the summer and next year recruiting the teams. Once players are gathered, NCAA teams could officially begin playing lacrosse competitively in the fall of 2012.
The total project of the track, the turf field and the lacrosse program will be about $3.7 million, according to Bierman. The lacrosse portion would be about $1 million, and that funding would cover the coaching salaries, equipment, travel costs and other operating costs for five to seven years of the program. The money would be added to the athletic department’s budget instead of redistributing the money the department already has.
Bierman predicts a lacrosse program would be a big draw for prospective student-athletes from the Midwest. Currently, according to Bierman, students who want to play lacrosse and attend a good liberal arts college usually have to look to the East Coast. If this athletic proposal comes together, Beloit would be the first selective liberal arts college within the triangle of Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago to have an NCAA lacrosse program.
The sport of lacrosse is rapidly spreading among top high schools in the Midwest. Of the top 30 high schools in Illinois, as ranked by the Chicago Sun-Times, 18 have a lacrosse program. Lacrosse is also becoming popular in high schools in Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan.
Though Beloit would be the first liberal arts college within the area to have a lacrosse program, other collegiate teams are still available to play in the Midwest. Beloit’s lacrosse teams would be able to play NCAA teams, but they might have to travel a bit to do so, Carl said.