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Athletes anticipate more flexible practice, competition schedule with new stadium lights

Students congregate on Dumke Field Sept. 22 during the unveiling of the new stadium lights. The project has been long-awaited by student-athletes, and was funded completely through donors. (James Carson)

With the addition of new stadium lights on Dumke Field, the athletics program said teams will begin to transition to scheduled night games and increased practice times. 

In the past, teams juggled practice times throughout the day — when natural daylight was necessary — while trying to schedule events that didn’t overlap. Tony LeBlanc, head coach of the women’s soccer team, said he’s been advocating for stadium lights for years to eliminate these problems. 

“Practices have been very difficult to get everyone to practice without classes interfering,” LeBlanc said. “That’s going to be a huge benefit of the lights, just managing their time and their practice schedule so they don’t feel like they are cutting class short or they are leaving practices early.”

The new lights were officially unveiled during the Turn on the Lights Celebration Sept. 22. 

The installation project not only benefits collegiate-level athletes, but coaches also said intramural sports and other groups who use the field will now have more time to schedule events. 

“We have intramurals that need to use the field and they get squeezed at certain parts of the year due to Daylight Savings,” LeBlanc said. “When the field sports get off it is usually dark so this is going to open it up to those who want to have more of an intramural experience.”

Up until this point, several practices have been scheduled in the morning — sometimes at 6 a.m. — so teams could use the field before classes. Coaches also scheduled them early in the morning so athletes could still see, which became impossible during evening practices without stadium lights. 

Coaches have had their sights set on the light installation project for several years, according to the athletics program. 

“When I first came, one of the first things the coaches said to me was we don’t have lights on the field, we don’t have the ability to play night games, and our practice times are limited,” President Beth Dobkin said to the crowd Sept. 22. “That made a lot of sense to me.”

Construction on the Dumke Field lights began near the beginning of Fall semester, entirely funded by donors. 

“We are all here to make this the best possible experience,” Dobkin said. “So when we find an opportunity like this — where making what seems like a small improvement can have such a dramatic impact on your ability to do what you love — we have to try and do it.”

On top of the logistical benefits, athletic program employees say they hope the lights will increase campus involvement at sporting events. 

“I think that these lights are going to be a big draw,” said Nick Marcy, assistant men’s lacrosse coach. “I think it will open up more opportunities so that students can have fun and go to a night lacrosse or soccer game […] I think it can bring campus life to a higher level.” 

*Nick Marcy is a previous Forum reporter for the 2019 Fall semester.

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James Carson
James Carson is a senior at Westminster College majoring in communication studies. He is a transfer student from Southern California, but he has always loved Utah. He loves everything music and various outdoor activities.

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