Much to the delight of coaches and players, the St. George’s Board of Trustees voted on Feb. 24 to approve the construction of two artificial turf athletic fields north of Auchincloss Dormitory and Memorial Schoolhouse.
The fields will provide a dramatically improved playing surface for our field hockey, football and lacrosse teams and remedy current drainage and scheduling issues.
A swift construction schedule beginning in March means the fields will be ready for play this fall when students arrive on campus following summer vacation. In addition to the turf fields, the existing baseball field at Elliott Field will be reconstructed in the northwest corner of campus and will be ready for play in spring 2019.
“This has all been about admission and about attracting the best possible students to St. George’s, and that means all kinds of students — scientists and writers and artists and athletes,” said trustee Lisa Colgate Scully ’81, who is also chair of the Turf Fundraising Committee. “If students aren’t giving us a chance because of our lack of turf fields, then we’re not in the game.”
The new turf fields fulfill recommendations laid out in the 2012 Athletic Fields Master Plan, which also suggested tennis court renovations, additional parking, and a third turf field in the area north of the stone wall.
To date and in just six months, the Turf Fundraising Committee has raised over $3 million for the project.
“The Board was committed to this project and we had parents and alumni who believed in it,” Scully said. “We had the passion, the perseverance, and the people to make the fundraising effort a success.”
Head of School Alixe Callen added, "As a new head of school, I am amazed by the generosity of this community."
Evening the playing turf
The new turf fields will help SG better compete with other prep schools that have turf facilities while simultaneously preparing our athletes who might want to compete at the collegiate level.
“For some athletes who are accepted, our lack of turf fields has been an issue,” Scully said. “If you want to play field hockey in college, you have to play on a turf field in high school.”
And indeed, our current athletes say they’re thrilled.
“I believe that getting turf fields is a major advancement for the St. George’s athletic program,” said field hockey player Bailey Randall ’21. “As a field hockey player, having the opportunity to play on an artificial surface for my next few years at St. George’s will make me a better player. And it will give me another lead if I wish to pursue the sport in college, because most D1 and D3 field hockey programs have artificial surfaces.”
Teammate Effie Blue ’19 said she thinks the fields “will excite current athletes at SG and be incentive for athletes who are visiting SG.”
“Playing on an artificial surface will be a game changer for me as a field hockey player,” she added. “An artificial playing field will help advance the field hockey team’s skill level, it will make us more prepared when competing against other schools because most schools in our league have turf fields, and finally, it is all around just more fun to play on turf.”
The new turf fields will not only help preserve the other fields on campus, but also allow SG teams to play games and practice year-round, despite inclement weather. About 16 games had to be postponed or rescheduled in spring 2017 alone because of poor field conditions, according to SG Athletic Director Rachel Horn.
“We lose a lot of games here because of the rain, particularly in the spring, and playing on turf allows us to play despite the weather, which really does make a difference,” said Horn. “I think that not only helps the athletic program, but also the academic program because we’re not having to make up games on non-game days and holding to the schedule really creates fewer conflicts all around for students.”
Dean of Afternoon Activities John Mackay has been head coach of the football team for 21 years, but his players have never been able to practice on the same field they play on.
“It’s going to be great for football because we can practice and play on the same surface without tearing it up,” Mackay said. “In the past, we’ve had a little tiny practice field. We try to stay off of our game field for that reason.”
Football and lacrosse player Zachary Stern ’19 said the year-round turf facilities will mean a whole new style and level of play.
“Lacrosse and football are totally different sports on turf,” he said. “The adjustment from a grass field to turf is enormous and provides a consistent playing surface for all practices and games.
“With the new turf fields, field hockey, football, and lacrosse will all benefit from a faster pace of play and they’ll provide our athletes with proper preparation for games at other schools and for college athletics as well."
Katie George ‘19 said the new fields would help advance her game and make for more fair competition.
“To me as a field hockey player, getting turf means a lot. Practicing on grass is not ideal and it’s harder to improve my skills,” she said. “Most teams in the Independent School League have turf and have been improving at a much faster rate simply because they had the right kind of surface.
“It was frustrating and unfair to have to play on a grass surface, while everyone else had turf. I’m very excited to have turf and can’t wait for the season to start again.”