Rolf Mellby Field received a major upgrade this summer with a new synthetic turf thanks to a $1.25 million investment by St. Olaf College alumni and Ole families.
“It’s perfect, it’s actually perfect,” says Head Women’s Soccer Coach Rachael Sushner. “The student-athletes are really liking it — it kind of gives a whole new energy for us.”
Sushner explained that synthetic turf is desirable for players because the ball moves cleanly and quickly. She’s excited that her youthful team, which includes 17 first- and second-years out of 26 players, will spend a majority of their career playing on the new field. With the addition of St. Olaf, now half of all teams in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) use synthetic turf.
“Division III athletics isn’t always seen as ‘big time’ as a Division I or II school,” Sushner says. “Any time people donate it shows they truly believe in the program and what we are doing here.”
While St. Olaf’s soccer teams will have priority access, other varsity, club, and intramural sports will be able to use the new turf. The field design provides St. Olaf with the option to add an inflatable dome over the field at a future date to extend use through winter.
“We are very grateful for the investments our Ole community is making to enhance the student experience. These improvements will help us match the commitment Oles are making on the Hill to excel in whatever they do.” — Athletic Director Ryan Bowles
The project at Rolf Mellby Field is one of several enhancements recently funded by donor contributions. The St. Olaf nursing program will receive new facilities inside Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, due to open February 2019. Construction has already begun on an ice arena that will include new varsity locker rooms for its baseball, hockey, soccer, softball, and volleyball teams. Other recent additions include Klein Field at Manitou, new golf team training facilities and tennis court surfaces, and a training and performance center at Tom Porter Hall.
Donors are making these gifts as part of St. Olaf’s $200 million For the Hill and Beyond comprehensive campaign — Oles and friends have given $180.8 million, or 90 percent, toward this goal as of July 31 to advance high-impact academics, enhance affordability, and strengthen St. Olaf’s residential learning community while sustaining the college’s mission.
“We are very grateful for the investments our Ole community is making to enhance the student experience,” says St. Olaf College Athletic Director Ryan Bowles. “These improvements will help us match the commitment Oles are making on the Hill to excel in whatever they do.”
Ole women first organized a soccer club team 40 years ago — to honor this anniversary, the varsity women’s soccer team was the first to compete on the new pitch during their home opener on August 31. The men’s home opener immediately followed.
Watch the field dedication below.