Allison Wordes—Staff Writer
Bleachers filled with people, muffled chatter, wind on the backs of the onlookers—another afternoon soccer game. This year, something has changed.
On Oct. 13, the finishing touches were added to the new soccer pressbox. A step up from rickety scaffolding, the new addition brought both safety and practicality for the team.
“You’re sufficiently protected from the elements,” said Mike Byker, the sports information director. The equipment used to record and stream games in years before had to rough all kinds of weather.
The final building is a wood structure built by Hoogendoorn Construction, with two stories, lights, a public announcement (PA) system, air conditioning and heating, internet connection, and a flagpole so the national anthem can be sung before games. The PA system had its debut Defender Days weekend.
“The fans appreciate having more seating options,” said Connor Stephens, Engineering senior and varsity soccer player. The soccer team watched the pressbox gradually come together at the beginning of the season. Stephens said he looks forward to the new speakers providing pre-game music.
The internet connection allows games to be streamed live right from the pressbox. Howard Wilson, who helped form the committee, recalled how one dad watched his daughter play from his office in Seattle, Washington.
The building also provides a better element for shoes, said Wilson. Good ventilation in the building keeps the footwear aired out and prevents fungal infections.
The bold white lights are on 24/7 for security, and the doors remain locked at all times when not in use.
“It really has helped us by allowing our equipment to be kept locked up,” said Glenn Bouma, Assistant Athletic Director. He said it’s not just a functional structure, but one that blends with nearby buildings and creates the look of a quality facility.
Because of its sand base and real grass turf, the Dordt’s soccer field is considered one of the best soccer fields around. It drains well, and maintenance keeps it well-groomed throughout the year.
This project is a two-phase vision, according to Wilson. Potential expansions for the field could be lighting all around the perimeter, so the teams could play into the evening. Students wouldn’t have to leave classes early to make it to games. Another extension would include permanent locker room space for the players, freeing up space in the Rec Center.
Two donors completely funded the process, including all the materials and labor for the project.
Three years ago, a committee came together to discuss improvements for Dordt’s soccer team. Some engineers, working for their senior project, met with the soccer coaches and came up with some drawings to present. A site survey told them the elevation, as well as placement for the structure. These big ideas took hold and, with some revision, held potential for a new pressbox design.
Initially, senior Engineering students presented the design in May 2015. The students, now alumni, were Thaddeus Van Essendelft, Alec Woods, and Braden Graves. They worked with civil, structural, mechanical, and electrical designs of the project.
“They had very detailed working drawings,” said Dr. Nolan Van Gaalen, professor of engineering who collected the data for the project. “The image as I walk by and the image in my mind are similar.”
“They quickly found out that there generally is not an equation that will give them the answer,” said Ben Saarloos, also an Engineering professor. Working with an internal client, specifically Dordt College administration, gave the students experience with “best practice” guidelines, consulting with experts.
“It’s important for our students to have this opportunity to do something real,” said Van Gaalen. Currently, another set of eight projects are being given to a group of 30 students, for an engineering class that begins this fall. Some of the projects include a bridge in Haiti and solar power in Liberia.
All three designers graduated and moved on to find jobs in Minneapolis, MN; Des Moines, IA; and Colorado working with companies in the engineering field.