A new lacrosse stadium in the works, as the Stags continue to win

A New Stadium for Lacrosse

by Virginia Weir

Over the last ten years, Fairfield’s men’s lacrosse team has emerged as a national force to be reckoned with. This past April, for instance, the Stags were ranked as high as #13 and found themselves facing the Denver Pioneers, the nation’s number-one ranked team. In an overtime thriller, Fairfield won with a score by senior Sam Snow. It was the first time Fairfield had ever beaten the best team in the nation.

“That win was really a milestone for Fairfield lacrosse, and we’re looking for more,” said Athletics Director Gene Doris. “The attention we’re getting from lacrosse is really raising the profile of the University.”

There has long been the understanding that Fairfield needed a facility that would support national championship ambitions. Now, thanks to a generous leadership gift from former University Trustee Larry Rafferty ’64 and his wife Barbara, their daughter Kathleen Rafferty Hay ’03, and son Michael Rafferty, that facility will become a reality. As soon as fundraising efforts are complete, Alumni Field is set to be renovated into a large-scale stadium where Fairfield’s men’s and women’s lacrosse teams will permanently make their home: Rafferty Stadium.

“The new stadium will be good for lacrosse, but more importantly it will help bring a lot of visibility to Fairfield and raise our institutional profile,” said Rafferty. “The whole Rafferty family is thrilled to be a part of it.”

Invented by North American Indians, the game of lacrosse is considered by many to be America’s first sport. The game is fast and fun – a combination of basketball, soccer, and hockey, requiring a high level of agility and athleticism.

Today, lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports, popular among both men and women. The first Division I NCAA championship for men’s lacrosse was established in 1971, and in 1982 for women. In 2012, there were 671 college teams at the NCAA level, and more than 500 college club programs.

Like the sport itself, Fairfield’s lacrosse programs have been growing in national stature since the University established a Division I presence in 1993 for the men and 1997 for women.

“Momentum has been building around lacrosse at Fairfield, and it’s so great to see the teams doing well, and alumni and fans coming together to support them,” said University Trustee Brian Hull ’80, P’13, a driving force behind the new stadium and an active member of the Friends of Lacrosse group. “And a wonderful thing about having a top-flight facility is that it will bring attention to us not just for athletics, but for Fairfield’s many other offerings – the great education here, the unique location, and the sense of an exciting future. We’re all really grateful to the Raffertys.”

Alumni Field has served the University’s needs well, but it was not designed with the current level of competition in mind.

“Right now, spectator seating and amenities are severely lacking,, and fans have to literally walk across the edge of the field,” stated Associate Vice President for Facilities David Frassinelli. “For Division I play, the current stadium is simply inadequate.”

Doris concurred. “I have been amazed at the lacrosse facilities built in the last five years. To remain competitive at the level of our peers, the new stadium is significant,” he said. “The Walsh Athletic Center is the hub of our athletics activity, and having a beautiful new stadium right next door will help our recruiting efforts for all sports.”

Planning a new venue from the ground up has provided Facilities Management with an opportunity to address a number of issues, including lighting and sound, according to Frassinelli. Advancements in technology will result in better quality lighting and sound in Rafferty Stadium with less impact on the neighborhoods surrounding the campus. The existing six light poles will be replaced with four taller poles that will point down on the field, rather than across the field, achieving the NCAA’s recommended lighting levels without the light spillage associated with the old technology. Eliminating night sky illumination, or the “halo,” is an important element of green design that will be achieved with the new installation. Sound technology has also progressed to be better focused and minimize ambient noise.

Neighbors were engaged early on in the planning. Frassinelli even took several for a visit to another field in New Rochelle to show them how the specialized lighting worked.

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