Outside soccer club could spark field switch

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A player jumps for the ball at the current soccer field adjacent to Clark Hall (Photo by: Anthony Mazur)

The University of Dallas athletics program is expected to enter into an agreement with Solar Soccer Club, a developmental academy club located in Allen, that would result in the UD men’s and women’s soccer teams move to the lacrosse field.

The agreement will also see Solar Club give the athletics department $500,000 to rent the UD fields for a 10-year period of time. UD is using that money (which is being given up front) as well as money donated by soccer alumni to resurface the new field and install lights.

This means UD will share campus fields with the club’s athletes- who are often among the top young players in the area.

With the soccer teams moving up the hill, lacrosse is moving down to the soccer field beginning this season.

There were multiple problems with the old soccer field that led to this desired upgrade, not the least of which is that the soccer field isn’t technically NCAA regulation size.

“It’s not really big enough,” Athletics Director Dick Strockbine said. “We’ve been grandfathered in on NCAA regulations about the size of the field, so we didn’t have to do anything. But it’s desirable to have a regulation sized field.”

The NCAA requires the field to be 70-75 yards wide and 115-120 yards long. Solar needs a 75-yard by 120-yard field.

“There’s no way to get the size field on there that we need without some major expense in building retaining walls,” Executive Vice President John Plotts said of the old field.

The decision was made to  make the field up the hill where lacrosse plays into the soccer field, where there will be plenty of room. While the agreement with Solar hasn’t been signed yet, the athletics department seems confident it will  be soon, and the field will be ready to play on by next soccer season.

“It’s reasonable for it to be done by then. If we are dealing with a relatively normal weather year, there’s every expectation that it should be done by next year and by my napkin math there’s probably about a month wiggle,” men’s soccer head coach David Hoffmann said.

The Athletics Department thinks that it will be a beneficial move for all involved.

“It’s kind of a mutual thing with Solar,” Strockbine said. “They need more space, and those clubs have a lot of money. We have not come up with the money that we had hoped to be able to do something without an assist from someone like Solar.”

“I personally think that lacrosse got an upgrade,” Hoffmann said. “I think they’re closer to the center of campus, I think they’ve got an aesthetically more pleasing spot, it suits the size of their field very well. I think they actually went up a tick. If it was just a straight swap, it would take soccer down, but I think the space affords us the opportunity to do more over the long term than being downfield does.”

“I think this is a desirable location down here and both of the lacrosse coaches seemed to think it was a good thing,” Strockbine said. “It puts them closer to the student body in general.”

Backers of the plan expect the move to be beneficial for UD soccer, both because of the lights improving the atmosphere at games and because of the increased exposure from having an elite soccer club make UD its new home.

“This will expose us to essentially the 10 best clubs in the area,” Hoffmann said. “They will come. They will play at UD once this is done, and I think that’s going to do nothing but help the exposure of the school. I think that will help recruiting. I don’t think it’s going to be transformative, but if we’re picking up a kid every other year that’s a starting caliber kid that helps us and that helps the women as well.”

Hoffmann says that most of the kids who play for Solar are Division I caliber players, so if UD is able to get anyone from their club to play soccer it will be a good player. The Crusaders have one player from Solar committed to come to UD next year, according to Hoffmann.

Currently, Solar’s $500,000 is barely enough to make the necessary changes. The soccer team is fundraising to cover any other costs.

“Nothing’s coming from the athletics budget,” Plotts said. “We had a board member and donor and former soccer player here give us a sizeable gift. So, we took his gift and then we started doing fundraising among other soccer alums. That’s been moderately successful, a thousand dollars here and there, but that’s helped towards this project.”

Both Plotts and Hoffmann believe that the seating at the new field will be improved soon.

“I think it’s something that’s going to happen, the question is how fast can we make that happen,” Hoffmann said. “[Alumni have] given more and more each year and there’s guys giving more appreciable amounts, so we may not have $50,000 for new seats today, but we might have $50,000 in three years, and if momentum keeps going we might then have $100,000 to do the bench area in three more years and then we might have the $300,000 to do the locker rooms and stuff in three more years so in a decades time that place can be transformed.”

Currently Hoffmann said UD has $100,000 for the project in addition to Solar’s $500,000.

In addition to helping with recruiting, Hoffmann believes the ability to play night games will improve the atmosphere.

“I think the average UD student is going to find a 7 o’clock kickoff [and say] ‘Hey let’s go get dinner and then watch the game,’ it’s going to be much more comfortable.”

While the agreement isn’t final yet, Hoffmann believes the field will likely be exclusive to UD during the school’s  soccer season, with the exception of practices during the week. Solar will play their home games at the field the rest of the year.

Solar says they will not comment until the contracts are signed.

One potential challenge will be spring practice for the men’s and women’s soccer teams this year. The teams are afforded five continuous weeks to practice at any time during the spring semester, but that will likely have to be compromised due to the construction on the field.

“It doesn’t really work, we’re going to make it work we’re not cancelling off-season, but that’s one of those sacrifices you have to make where we’re going to take a step back and we’re going to take two steps forward,” Hoffmann said.

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