GENOA TWP. — On what school president Jayson Boyers called “a historic day,” Cleary University officials broke ground Thursday on an on-campus outdoor athletic field.
The facility, to be known as Lake Trust Credit Union Stadium, will cost $2.5 million and will open on Sept. 1 on the school’s campus.
“We started athletics back in 2011,” Boyers said. “We began building a tradition, and now we get to play on our home field on campus starting in the fall.”
The field will be home to six of Cleary’s 14 varsity sports — baseball, softball, men’s and women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s soccer.
It will be configued to have the soccer and lacrosse fields play in the outfield of the diamond, which will mean a lot of room in center field for Cleary outfielders.
The design is reminiscent of the old Polo Grounds stadium in New York, but not as severe. In that facility, the foul poles were 280 in left and 260 in right, but center field was 483 feet from home plate.
Dimensions of Lake Trust Credit Union Stadium are still to be set, but the foul poles will be at about 320 feet and center field at 420.
Cleary athletic director Ward Mullens says the exact dimensions are still being decided upon.
“We’re tweaking it here and there to get it exactly the way we want,” he said. “That’s so our student-athletes have the stage they deserve to be on to compete and represent Cleary University.”
There will be permanent grandstands for baseball and softball and portable bleachers for soccer and lacrosse.
A permanent athletics facility was one of the conditions of acceptance Cleary had to meet in order to be accepted by the NAIA. Cleary currently is a probationary member of the organization; its bid for membership will be decided in April at the NAIA’s national convention.
“We feel that we’re on track (for membership),” Mullens said. “I feel very confident.”
The field also gives the program, which has played its home games in multiple venues in Livingston County in its first six years, a home.
“It’s already helping with recruiting,” softball coach Tim Bailey said. “The girls on the team are incredibly excited. We have a home. It’s good for them.”
Cleary’s first senior class, athletically, will graduate this spring without having a chance to play on the field, but Mullens says their impact is no less significant.
“We had a lot of student-athletes who came here and joined us when there weren’t any fields, when we weren’t part of the NAIA or even part of the USCAA,” Mullens said. “They bought into what we could be and what we could become. The progress that the public sees is because of those student athletes. They came when there was nothing. They helped us build to where we are today.”
The facility will also be open to non-college athletic events.
“We’re thrilled to have a facility that’s not only for athletes, but to build links to the community, to youth leagues, and engage in a deeper way our partnership with the community,” Boyers said. “We think it will be a real gem.”