Major construction to install turf softball and baseball fields at Colby College is underway, and calling the project merely a win-win proposition is a less-than-full accounting.
Both programs will benefit from new fields and related facilities, and there are multiple wins for academics at Colby as well. Harold Alfond Director of Athletics Tim Wheaton points out that the new facilities will help the College attract the strongest academic applicants; lights will allow athletes to practice later in the day, causing fewer conflicts with academic and extracurricular activities; and teams’ access to the fields beginning in February will result in less travel for away games. “For us, the impact is huge,” Wheaton said.
There are also exciting opportunities for community use of the facilities for local programs as well as a place for regional tournaments. And Colby’s Collins Observatory is moving to Runnals Hill, where light pollution will be less of a factor.
Colby will become the first college in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) to have synthetic turf for both baseball and softball. These will be the third and fourth artificial fields on campus, following the Bill Alfond Field, installed in 2004 for field hockey and lacrosse and resurfaced in 2014, and Seaverns Football Field in the Harold Alfond Stadium, converted to artificial turf in 2008. Like the other synthetic playing surfaces at Colby, these fields will be cleared of snow, providing space for intramural and informal sports activities as well as varsity practices beginning in mid-February.
Construction on the softball and baseball fields began the first workday after commencement, May 26, and a week later thousands of cubic yards of earth had been excavated and other preparations were underway. The fields will be completed this fall.
Benefits cited for athletic programs, academic life for athletes, student recreation, and community connections
The complex will include a pavilion featuring hitting tunnels for batting practice. There also will be on-grade dugouts, public restrooms, elevated bleachers behind home plate on both fields, bullpens outside the playing area, and full lighting for night practices and games. In addition there will be a team drop-off area and parking spaces for people with disabilities, enhancing safety and accessibility. Landscaping and plantings will enhance aesthetics, and pathways will be lit with LED fixtures. With the quality of the new fields and the related facilities, the experiences of Colby baseball and softball players and their fans will be the best in the NESCAC, College officials said.
This year the baseball team finished 20-14, tying Colby’s all-time win record, and an improving softball team included Megan Michie ’15, who ranked first in her graduating class. The fields will make Colby baseball and softball programs more competitive in the strong NESCAC conference. “When it comes to attracting great softball and baseball players here, the ability to have a facility this special will help,” Wheaton said. He added, “For our baseball and softball programs, the ability to get out there and train on an appropriate field regardless of the weather is crucial.”
Both new fields will be the same size as the fields they replace. The location of the baseball field, named for MLB legend Colby Jack Coombs, will not change. Softball will move across the road, from alongside the field house to adjacent to Coombs Field, where the observatory and music shell were located.
The baseball field is large enough to put a three-quarter-size soccer field in the outfield, so pickup games of various sports can be scheduled. Impact on the surrounding community goes beyond Little League or high school teams’ use too. “There’s a similar facility in Massachusetts that hosted collegiate teams from all over New England this spring because it was the only place for teams to play,” Wheaton said. “If we have a field to play on, that means you’re bringing people in and it fills hotel rooms and restaurants and it can be good in a number of different ways for the community.”
Approximately $2.5 million has been committed to date by nearly a hundred alumni, parents, and friends of both Colby baseball and softball, with fundraising efforts ongoing.
With the passing of former Colby baseball coach John Winkin in 2014, a group of alumni who played under the National College Baseball Hall of famer rallied to honor his memory by giving a gift to name a space at the fields. A generous baseball family has pledged to match any gift with a one-to-one match up to a total of $250,000 to make the tribute to Winkin possible.
For more information on the fields, including how to support the project, please visit colby.edu/baseballsoftball.