Webster, local soccer club team up to renovate St. Louis Soccer Park
St. Louis Soccer Park, home of the Webster University men’s and women’s soccer teams, will have a revamped feel to it starting in the 2012-2013 academic year.
After an agreement between local soccer club St. Louis Scott Gallagher (SLSG) and Webster, renovations have been made to the Gorloks’ home facility. Improvements include two grass fields being replaced with artificial turf, the installation of a digital video scoreboard and the transformation of a warehouse into a training facility.
Webster Director of Athletics Tom Hart said the agreement will provide continued growth for the school’s soccer programs.
“As a landlocked institution within a metropolitan area, we don’t have a whole lot of options as it comes to fields,” Hart said. “Moving forward, we will have a place that we can call home. We know it’s going to be a place that feels more like home than it does somebody else’s home that we just visit.”
Webster will also have the right to use two of the fields from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and the Gorloks will be able to utilize a locker room.
Along with the field and stadium renovations, the agreement calls for more signage and advertisement for Webster at the entrance to Soccer Park and on Field 1.
“There are hundreds to thousands of people who utilize that facility through the course of a month,” Hart said. “So we are going to have a presence there from a signage standpoint.”
SLSG acquired ownership of the Soccer Park in July 2011. SLSG’s first improvement was repaving the parking lot, and its latest will be installing Bermuda grass on two fields. SLSG Executive Director Patrick Barry said the total cost of the renovations is between $1.7 and $1.8 million. Barry said Webster was one of the major financial partners in the agreement.
If all goes according to plan, the improvements would be ready in time for the women’s soccer team’s first home game on Friday, Aug. 31.
“We wanted to make the renovations as quickly as possible, but I don’t think anyone imagined we would be able to have this kind of impact in this short amount of time,” Barry said.
Hart said there were a number of Webster representatives involved in closing the deal with SLSG, including Paul Carney, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, and Greg Gunderson, vice president and chief financial officer.
The new agreement will provide Webster’s soccer squads with a consistent place to play. Last season, Webster’s women’s soccer team hosted the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament, and one of the Gorloks’ games had to be moved from Field 1 to Field 2 due to rain.
“Knowing we aren’t going to have to leave that field due to rain or inclement weather makes both our coaches (women’s coach Luigi Scire and men’s coach Marty Todt) extremely excited,” Hart said. “It provides a consistent practice environment as well, which is something you’re always looking for.”
Hart said it was important for Webster to reach this agreement because it gives Webster and its soccer programs a stable future. He added that the agreement, which is set for 15 years, gives Webster an association with a “high-quality” soccer club in St. Louis.
“In order to have a successful intercollegiate athletic program, facilities — probably tied for first with coaching — are necessary to build a program,” Hart said. “Now we’ve got those pieces put in place for the foreseeable future.”
Hart said of all the positives that have occurred in Webster athletics this past year, entering into this agreement was one of the largest ones.
“Knowing that Webster is a player in the athletic realm helps us establish the Webster brand from an athletic standpoint,” Hart said. “We also provide our current students and future students with a place they know is going to be there and they can relate to. Hopefully, one day it will help us build those programs from a recruitment and retention standpoint.”
— Josh Sellmeyer contributed to this report.