The field hockey and lacrosse teams at Sweet Briar are due for an upgrade in the form of a new turf field.
Sweet Briar will construct a synthetic, water-based turf field to replace the current grass field behind Babcock Hall, the school announced last week, saying it believes the change will “dramatically” improve the experience for both student-athletes and spectators.
“We’re really excited about this,” Mary Pope Hutson, SBC’s vice president for alumnae relations and development, said, adding the project is an important step in “setting Sweet Briar apart.”
Nearby Liberty University also has a water-based turf field for its field hockey program, while University of Lynchburg’s team plays on a different type of turf that does not use water. Randolph College does not have a field hockey team.
According to Olympics.com, field hockey has been played mostly on turf since the 1970s. International competition in particular makes use of the water-based surface, which cuts down on friction as the ball moves up and down the field and speeds up the game.
“This will position Sweet Briar to be right at the forefront of all the other colleges in Virginia,” Hutson said.
The all-women’s college is set to break ground on the project in January and plans to have the field ready for competition in fall 2022.
The timeline will allow SBC to soon host field hockey games on its own campus. It has played and practiced on Amherst County High School’s turf field for “several years,” the school said.
In addition to the upgraded playing surface, the project will include the installation of LED lights — allowing for night games — and a scoreboard. An adjacent natural grass soccer field will be reoriented to align with the new surface, as well.
The total cost of the project is $2.6 million and is mostly funded by private gifts, according to the school. Fundraising has resulted in $1.7 million received in gifts and pledges. The college is chipping in $300,000, and additional fundraising to cover the remaining cost is underway. Hutson said the college hopes to have that outstanding balance covered by gifts or commitments by the end of September.
According to Hutson, the college hopes the forthcoming improvements help drive enrollment and retention.
The school said about 30% of its students play sports. According to the NCAA, the 2020 single-year federal graduation rate for Division III female student-athletes was 78%, or 9% higher than the rate for the entire population of females in the student body at Division III schools.
Hutson also hopes the addition of water-based turf will help SBC’s field hockey program specifically to become more competitive.