Big changes are coming for the athletic program at William Peace University next semester when the women’s and men’s soccer and lacrosse programs will have their own natural and artificial turf fields located at WakeMed soccer park in Cary, the new home for the Pacers.
“What we wanted was to have something that’s a lot more consistent,” said WPU Athletic Director Tom Curle. “A place where parents and the student body knows where the games are… we were hoping this could build some real school spirit and get some support for our athletes.”
Peace has had a partnership with the Town of Cary for years as both soccer teams play at WakeMed and baseball plays at the USA baseball complex. However, now Peace has expanded the agreement and will fund a new multi-purpose facility, fields, scoreboards, and bleachers.
As the student body and athletic department grow, space is needed to accommodate new sports and sometimes sacrifices are made because of the school’s location downtown.
Although students lost parking at Seaboard from the sale of the land in December 2018, the proceeds from the sale are directly funding the new space for the home of the Pacers.
The total current estimate of this expansion is $1.6 million, saving about 73 thousand per year for field rentals. This new expansion is a part of the strategic development of the university and there are no tuition dollars being used in the present or future to fund this project.
“The $1.6 million for these fields is not an unreasonable purchase, it makes perfect sense because the teams need easier access to fields,” said WPU sophomore Alec Brooks. “I think this is a big step for the athletic program.”
Brooks isn’t the only one who has an opinion on this new expansion. WPU senior Bill Lewis can see the benefits and disadvantages of this new improvement as there is a big following in Cary for women’s soccer as they have a professional team, North Carolina Courage.
“I think this would be fantastic for enrollment and encouraging women’s sports in the area,” said Lewis in a text message. “[However], I think the money could be put to better use for new computers and tech to compete with NC State.”
Although to some it may seem like a costly and sudden expansion, this is a huge step forward for the university and this plan has been in the works for some time now.
“This has been a plan for a long time,” said Curle. “The college looked at 15 different sites throughout Wake County, we were in negotiations with a lot of different entities. WakeMed soccer complex is the best option for us for a lot of different reasons.”
With this new agreement, Peace’s soccer and lacrosse teams will have access to lockers and showers at the location of their home field. In the past, athletes had to bring equipment back and forth from campus to the field they were practicing on that day.
“The locker room is a big thing,” said WPU junior lacrosse player Finn McGrady. “Right now our locker room is under Ross, so even though we have a field that we play games at, that’s not where we practice. Even if we do practice there, we can’t use the locker room.”
Not only will the Pacers now have their own space to store equipment and get ready for games, but they will also have new bleachers and scoreboards with the Pacers logo to better represent their new home.
“I think having our own field with our own lettering and our own stadium will make people want to come out,” said WPU junior soccer and lacrosse player Jessika Schutte. “When things are labeled out, like ‘These are your colors and this is your school,’ it makes people more proud of the school that they’re going to and the school that they’re playing for.”
Athletes were having to be flexible about practice location and times. Even fans were unsure of where to go for games. Those challenges are now gone and players are happy with the improvements in the athletic department.
“I think consistency was really where we had been falling off and we had the shortcomings,” said McGrady. “The consistency that comes along with having a field, even if it is not directly on campus, but knowing it’s there is super important and I think that’s gonna take us to a different level.”
The athletic department is continuing to grow and develop in ways that are benefiting students and staff. With this expansion, students will now have a new home to call their own.
“There’s a lot reasons to be excited about this opportunity for the college. Any student-athlete and any student wants to know their home,” said Curle.
Photo by Caylan Harrison