The impact of the construction of a new football field on student life

Wooded area where the new football stadium will reside. Photo by Bailey Maierson ’25

MCKINLEY LETTER ’24 (HER/HER), WRITER

Pending board approval, Davidson’s athletic department plans to renovate existing athletic facilities and construct a new field and stadium. While this plan expands sports facilities, it raises concerns about disruptions to student life, parking shortages and environmental impacts.

The new field, named for former head football coach David J. Fagg ’58, will become the home ground for the football and lacrosse teams. It will be located in the area behind the Irwin, Akers, and Knox dorms. Richardson Stadium will change from turf to grass and become the new venue for athletics.

In addition to changes to the field and construction, the project includes renovations that will benefit all Davidson athletes.

“A new weight room and training room at the new stadium will serve all sports teams,” said David Holthouser, facilities and engineering manager. The stadium will also include new dressing rooms for field hockey, football and lacrosse players.

The new pitch will be made of artificial grass, which requires less maintenance and allows for easier gameplay. However, according to the New York Times, turf is associated with increased runoff, chemical contaminants in air and soil, and microplastics in wastewater. Some turfs are made from durable materials, although the majority are made of plastic and rubber.

Fundraising for the project was successful. According to Athletic Director Chris Clunie, the athletic department has raised over 75% of the funds needed for the new pitch and renovations to Richardson Stadium.

The project is expected to be approved at the April board meeting. If approved, construction of the new ground will begin in June and end in December 2023. The renovation of Richardson Stadium will last from May to October 2024.

Construction of the field will involve the removal of 222 hardwoods from the site. “The new stadium plan calls for 110 large mature trees to be planted on site and approximately 90 medium mature trees to be planted on site,” Holthouser said. It will also plant 400 shrubs along the fence, new buildings and pathways. Its goal is to have a 1:1 ratio of trees felled to trees replanted, but the current plan still works with a net loss of trees.

The Davidson campus has been designated a national arboretum since 1982. Class president Steve Mirabello ’25 urges the college to ‘at a minimum, have a plan to replant the number of trees [they] reduce” to limit the impact on the environment.

One of the most tangible disruptions caused by construction will be changes to parking. The paved portion of the Satellite lot will remain open, but Holthouser said “we will lose the Ramsey gravel lot to construction.” To minimize this impact on an already strained parking system, Holthouser plans to add 124 spaces to the Greenhouse Lot (known colloquially as the Senior Satelite). “The net effect of losing Ramsey and winning Greenhouse is zero,” Holthouser explained.

The school also plans to distinguish parking permits for students who live off campus. “Student Living Off-Campus Permits will be organized in the Baker lot, which in turn will create an inventory of on-campus student space in other student parking areas,” Holthouser said. Under this new plan, students who live off-campus will no longer be allowed to park in lots other than Baker.

Like any major construction project, the construction of the new ground will disrupt the lives of students, especially those who live in Irwin, Akers and Knox. Mirabello, who was briefed on the project at an SGA meeting, said, “I don’t know what steps the college is taking to mitigate construction-related disruptions. When we inquired, SGA was informed that there would be no discounted rates for nearby dorms.

To minimize disruption, Holthouser expects the most disruptive work, such as land clearing, grading and utilities, to take place this summer. Road works will take place the following summer. “However, construction as a whole is a disruptive task, and it’s fair to expect busy working days for the entire region,” Holthouser said. Workdays will generally be Monday through Friday, with an occasional make-up day on Saturday.

The SGA states that “students should be provided with a mechanism to provide construction feedback directly to the college so that concerns are heard and addressed as quickly as possible,” Mirabello said. “We hope that the college will take all possible steps to minimize disruption to student life from this project, especially for those who live in Irwin, Akers and Knox.”