Gooding and Hills Fields, which serve as practice and game spaces for multiple varsity, club and intramural athletic teams, will undergo extensive renovations beginning in late March. Affected student groups will include varsity field hockey, varsity men’s and women’s lacrosse, varsity men’s and women’s track and field, ultimate Frisbee and other intramural sports.
The project, which will conclude just before the start of the fall of 2020, will be conducted in two parts. First, upgraded turf will be installed on Gooding Field. Second, the college will replace the grass on Hills Field with turf. Walkways and lighting surrounding the fields will be renovated as well. The construction will displace several Amherst athletic teams and the track and field throwing pits on Hills Field. The pits will likely be relocated to Hitchcock Field, though the final details of the project are not yet planned.
According to Jim Brassord, chief of campus operations, the renovations will cost around $5-6 million and will be outsourced to Activitas, a civil engineering and landscaping company that specializes in athletic facilities.
“The project completed in 2007 was Amherst’s only artificial turf field at that time, and it was intended to serve a full range of sports,” said Brassord. “In the past 12 years, the needs of different sports and teams evolved. The field is no longer fit for the state of the practice of field hockey.”
The Activitas design lead, Megan Buczynski, also said that the project will give Amherst varsity athletic teams the facilities to compete with their peer institutions. The field hockey team in particular will benefit from the remodeling. “Currently, Gooding Field is the width of a football field and not a field hockey field, even though it is used primarily for field hockey. The current field is 12 years old, with the last Gooding Field renovation project completed in 2007,” Bucynski said.
To completely update Gooding and Hills Fields, Activitas will further separate the already distinct fields with a 15-foot change in elevation, fencing and netting. The company will use ultramodern short-pile Astro-turf technology on Gooding Field that has no sand or rubber. Irrigation systems will also be installed on Hills Field. Both fields will be lit with 70 foot-candles — the preferred light for appropriate streaming events. Hills Field will be equipped with LED lighting.
Some other improvements include redesigned team areas along the western side of the field and new spectator seating along the eastern side of the field. Improved pedestrian walkways will be installed near the spectator seating to allow for easier access. The college will also position a new scoreboard on the southern side of the field.
Despite the large-scale construction, however, Brassord said the renovation will not disrupt the day-to-day lives of students and faculty. “Construction is remote — not on the [main] campus — and we will take precautions to minimize the impact,” Brassord said. “There will be a period of time that Gooding Field will not be available. During that time, we will be making adjustments in the schedule concerning the use of the fields to compensate for that.”
Director of Athletics Don Faulstick confirmed that teams that normally practice on Gooding Field will have an alternative practice space. In the spring, those teams are primarily men’s and women’s lacrosse. Their day-to-day practices will instead take place on Pratt Field or other grass fields such as Hitchcock Field.
Due to the forthcoming decrease in available practice space, some students are concerned about the renovations. “Hills Field is mainly where we practice,” said Olive Amdur ’23, member of the ultimate Frisbee team. “It could cause problems if we don’t have a field. However, redoing the walkways may make it easier to access. Getting down the steep hill is often difficult.”
“It would be inconvenient. We practice and play games there several times a week. I also heard that Pratt can get incredibly hot,” added Katie Hadro ’23, a women’s lacrosse player.