Lawrence University's iconic Whiting Field is getting a major makeover.
The track facility, which has been in use for nearly a century, will be renovated as the first phase of work in the complex that also houses the baseball and softball fields. President Laurie Carter broke ground at George A. Whiting Memorial Field on Monday morning, and plans call for all the work to be completed by fall 2023.
"The track and field project is one of many ways Lawrence is investing in our future," Carter said. "Student athletes and coaches do a fantastic job of elevating the Lawrence brand through their work on the field, courts, and in the classroom. I am thrilled that we are upgrading our athletic facilities in a way that honors their commitment to Lawrence."
Lawrence is investing $4.3 million to renovate the facility, which opened in 1925. The old track will be completely razed, and the new lighted track will be situated near the site of the existing oval. Infrastructure work on the track facility will take place this fall with the asphalt and track surface being put in place in 2023.
"To break ground on a project of this magnitude is very special," Director of Athletics Jason Imperati said. "All the hard work put in by so many is now becoming a reality. I want to especially thank our Board of Trustees, Chief of Staff Christyn Abaray and President Laurie Carter for continuing to support Lawrence athletics. Our student-athletes and staff couldn't be more excited. It's a great day to be a Viking."
The plans from Rettler Corp. call for a nine-lane track and use of the space both inside and outside of the track for competition. The new track surface will be a Stobitan SW Sandwich System and be in the dark blue color of Lawrence athletics.
The grass infield will house the throws area with four separate spaces. On the east side of the complex, the large throws cage is for discus and hammer throw and another area features two circles for shot put. On the west end of the track is the runway for the javelin throw and the high jump area. The area north of the track will be for long jump, triple jump and pole vault. The area for long and triple jump features two runways with pits on each end for a total of four sand pits. The pole vault area features two runways with the pits in the center.
A walkway between the track and the baseball and softball fields is included to allow student-athletes safe access to and from the Banta Bowl and Alexander Gymnasium.
"The track and field renovation project will be a game-changer for our track and field and cross country teams," Lawrence head track and field and cross country coach Jason Fast said. "This new facility will give us one of the finest outdoor track and field facilities in the area. We look forward to showcasing it to the greater Fox Valley area once it's completed."
The facility also gets a leg up on the competition with the installation of a Musco lighting system.
"Whiting Field's location makes it a prime spot to host some really competitive twilight meets with the addition of the new lighting system," Fast said.
Lawrence student-athletes are looking forward to seeing the transformation take place at Whiting Field.
"When Coach Fast told us the new track was happening, I was ecstatic," said sophomore cross country and track star Cristyn Oliver. "It's going to be an amazing opportunity to train on and eventually race on this brand new facility. One day we can hopefully be able to host bigger meets that more competitive schools will want to come to. It's a big step up in the game for the program and the current and future team. It not only shows that the track and field program is growing, but athletics in general at Lawrence is changing for the better."
A native of Redondo Beach, Calif., Oliver is the reigning Midwest Conference cross country champion, an NCAA Division III Championships qualifier in cross country, and a five-time conference track champion.
"I am really excited for Lawrence University's new high-caliber track surface," said first-year track and field athlete Jaydon Watson, a native of Hamilton, Texas. "It will give myself, as well as my team, a fantastic opportunity to better ourselves on the track. This new facility is the gateway into the latest and greatest era of LU track and field. I believe that this new project will not only be a betterment for our track and field team, but the Lawrence community as a whole."
Future plans for the Whiting Field complex feature the complete renovation of the baseball and softball fields and call for construction of a grandstand on the track near the start-finish line housing a structure for timing and scoring, and of a building for concessions and restrooms near the entrance to the track.
Whiting Field had its dedication in the fall of 1925 after the gift from Mr. Whiting, the owner of George A. Whiting Paper Co., in Menasha and the Whiting-Plover Paper Co., in Stevens Point. The facility became the hub of Lawrence athletics and was joined by Alexander Gymnasium immediately to its west in 1929. Whiting Field served as the home to both Lawrence track and field and football until football moved to the Banta Bowl in 1965. A new perma-track replaced the old cinder track in 1966.