When Asheville School begins its 119th school year, students, teachers, parents and alumni will gather together this fall to celebrate one giant leap forward for the school's athletic program — a new $3 million multi-purpose athletic complex with lights.
And as Asheville School Athletic Director Carl Boland sees it, gathering for a variety of athletic contests under lights will certainly usher in a new era for Blues athletics.
"This facility is going to rival the athletic facilities of our peer schools," Boland said. "To see a state-of-the-art, brand new facility that can be played and practiced on in all weather and all conditions will now be a major highlight for our athletic program."
Boland, who graduated from Asheville School in 1999 as a standout three-sport athlete, knows exactly how rewarding this new facility will be for student athletes, coaches, parents and alumni.
"As an alumnus, I have a mixed set of emotions," he said. "I have great memories of playing on our current field when I was a student, but these improvements are so long overdue. This upgrade feels exactly right. The current facility is so outdated that it is only fitting and deserving that we would take this step and build a quality facility like this. The idea of being able to play a game in the evening and have the whole school there is very exciting."
Student athletes at Asheville School are thrilled to hear about the new athletic facility, says Oliver Ferenbach, a junior from Johnson City, Tennessee, who plays football and lacrosse. "There's something about a Friday night football game and Friday night lights that just draws people in and makes it more of a pleasant experience. In lacrosse, having a turf field will make it more fast paced, which will be a huge improvement."
"The news of this new facility really reflects the growth of our athletic program," Ferenbach added. "Our strength and conditioning program has improved, and this new facility adds a big piece to our athletic profile."
S'khaja Charles, a sophomore from Charlotte, North Carolina, who competes in track and field, says she's looking forward to a new track and throwing area as well as the addition of lights.
"It will be so incredible, and it will draw more people to our games," she said.
The project was made possible by the generosity of alumni, parents and friends who donated the funds to support the new facility, said Daniel Seiden, Asheville School's Assistant Head of School for Advancement.
"Our student athletes want to play and be supported and united by their community. The feeling of having Asheville School together under the lights – that's the environment our athletes want to play in. Coaches are excited that their kids are going to step into the spotlight; it's what they deserve."
In addition to the lights and new multi-purpose turf field, the facility upgrade includes a new track matching the school's navy blue and white colors, stadium seating for 500 fans, a new press box, and field-level restrooms.
"The playing surface will be drastically improved," Seiden said. "It's a safe, modern, sleek facility, and our student athletes will see their performance improved. It will attract the caliber of athletes whom we want to come to us through the admission process."
Seiden said this project would not have been possible without the support from "two 7-figure donors, a current parent and an alumnus, and several 6-figure donors."
"There is a real sense of family and community here – those are real qualities for the Blues," he said. "We break bread together, go to chapel together and now we will be able to celebrate athletics together. This is an opportunity to not only enhance athletics, but also foster our community spirit."
Besides the addition of lights to be used by a variety of fall and spring sports, the new turf field will help to enhance practices for many of the school's student athletes.
"Providing our athletes with more opportunities to train and practice is a real benefit of having a field like this," Boland said. "It will be the primary venue for football, lacrosse, and track and field. But really all of our field sports can use this facility for practice and for games."
Boland says he has enjoyed being part of the design process for the new facility.
"It's exciting to be part of the design process." he said. "I've spent a lot of time researching all the great options out there. You learn a lot hearing what other schools wish they would have done. The type of technology as it relates to field turf has come a long way. It offers ease of maintenance and versatility. It always looks good, and almost all schools are now opting for some type of artificial turf."
While he expects to see more sports than just football and lacrosse use the facility, Boland also knows that local camps and club sports will be interested in using the field during the offseason.
"It presents a great opportunity to bring in auxiliary revenue," Boland said. "There's demand for these types of fields locally. A lot of camps are looking for places to host them."
Construction is scheduled to begin this May, once lacrosse season has ended.
"We will have shovels in the dirt immediately following the last contest of the spring season after May 15," Seiden said. "Construction will be underway through the summer with the expectation that it will be fully functional and celebrated at the first home football game."
This new multi-purpose field is only one part of the school's $25 million capital campaign, Seiden said.
"Ultimately, the timing of this project was donor driven, but this is one of two bricks-and-mortar capital projects that are part of the campaign," he said. "It's really exciting to have exceeded the goal for this athletic project in such a short amount of time. It gives us phenomenal momentum as we turn our attention to project no. 2 – a new visual and performing arts center."
Beyond athletics and the arts, the greatest priority for the campaign is to take care of our people—building an endowment that will sustain the talented faculty and students at Asheville School.
"Thanks to this new facility, we will be able to go toe to toe with any of our peer schools in terms of facilities, and now we need to bolster the people side of the equation," Seiden said.
To learn more about Asheville School's $25 million capital campaign, contact Associate Head of School Jay Bonner at email@example.com. To learn more about the school's new multi-purpose field, visit the FAQ page.