Renovation of Clothier Field draws mixed reactions from students

The Clothier Field Stadium is Swarthmore’s main athletic venue, home to the soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, and track and field teams. In early September, the stadium’s turf field and track surface were refurbished and became available to athletic teams for practices and games this Fall. But not all student athletes are thrilled with the change. 

In an email to The Phoenix, Bradley Koch, Marian Ware director of athletics, physical education, and recreation, wrote about the motivation behind this project. 

“A typical lifespan of an artificial turf surface is about 10-15 years. We were in that range, so a replacement was needed. It was also time to replace our track surface,” he wrote.    

The turf field and track project made headway this past May and was expected to be completed prior to the start of the Fall 2022 semester. However, the project was delayed, and the opening was pushed back to early September, after the start of the Fall semester. Koch remarked on what caused this.

“Both the turf field and the track project was delayed to some extent due to inclement weather and challenges removing some rock that was beneath the old turf,” he wrote.

The refurbishment presents several major changes to the original turf field and track surface. These changes include an improved drainage system, a reconditioned playable surface, and new overall branding on the turf, including an altered color scheme and addition of more logos. 

While the old turf was due to be replaced, some students were not as happy with the new turf. In an interview with The Phoenix, senior attacker on the women’s lacrosse team Andie Kapiloff ’23, commented on the new “S” printed on the turf and some of the downsides of the new renovation.

“I think the huge S in the middle of the field is cool looking from the stands, but as a lacrosse player it makes it a bit difficult to see the circle which is important for us,” she said. 

Kapiloff elaborated on the playability of the new turf field. 

“As far as things I don’t like, I think the newness of the turf means there are way more turf pellets and general unevenness in the field, which has contributed to there being some piles of pellets and places that make ankle rolls more likely. More turf pellets also makes it super hot on sunny days, which contributes to quicker dehydration and fatigue,” she said. 

Commenting on the updates to the track, Will Sheehy ’26, a member of the cross-country team, discussed how he felt running on the new track.

“I never had the chance to run on the old track, so I cannot compare how they feel. I can say, however, that the new track surface is far more visually appealing. It’s been nice running on the new track. It’s well-made and conducive to fast workouts,” he said. “The old surface had been torn up in some spots and patched up with slightly mismatched shades of red and black.” 

Despite the benefits of the new track, Sheehy reflected on the historical nature of Swarthmore’s previous track and its reputation of being “famously fast.”

“One note of concern is that Swarthmore’s old track surface was famously fast. National and world-caliber professionals came to Swarthmore’s ‘Last Chance Meet’ to chase qualifying times for international competition. Online running forums joked that the old track was short in distance. It’s yet to be seen whether this new surface carries the same ‘magic,’” he said.

Another member of the cross-country team, Michael Pham ’25, noted his disinterest in the renovation.

“I’m pretty indifferent. A lot of fun memories were made on the old track, so it’s a bit sad to see it go, but it’s nice to not have patches anymore on this track. I don’t feel much of a difference running on this new track, but apparently this new track isn’t level. One of the turns is apparently slightly banked,” he stated. 

Now that the track and field renovations are done, the athletics department is looking towards other athletic projects. Koch outlined Swarthmore’s future agenda, looking to enhance student athletes’ experience through the improvement of various facilities on campus.

“We are in the exploratory phase of reimagining our Athletics District/Facilities to help achieve our goals for Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation,” Koch wrote.

When asked about his thoughts and expectations for future potential construction projects, Dylan Zhang ’26 of the golf team shared some of his aspirations.

“Hopefully, some renovations can be done to the field house, especially some of the offices and equipment. The fans can also be replaced with some newer technology as well. Another possible renovation could be building a bubble over the turf field during the winter, so other sports can practice inside of the bubble without the problem of being too cold outside or having snow in the way on the turf,” he said.

Nick Baldev ’26, a member of the baseball team, also noted shortcomings of the current status of the athletic facilities.

“The turf field is pretty nice already. Although I haven’t been in the in season locker rooms, the ones I have been in are very poor. Apart from the main entrance, the field house seems very outdated and not air conditioned well enough,” he said.

While Zhang and Baldev expressed their dissatisfaction with some of the athletic facilities, Kapiloff provided a different perspective to this situation. She expressed her appreciation that the school is putting more emphasis on the athletes through such renovations.

“What I like about the new field is the attention given to athletic renovation. I have felt like athletics as a department has been looked over recently, despite lots of upgrades and additions to other areas of campus. This was the first major project in athletics during my time at the college, and two entire new buildings — Singer and New Sharples — have been built during that time,” she reflected. “As large as the athletic population is at Swat and how much of the alumni community participated in athletics, it is nice that there has been more attention paid to athletics.”

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