Brand new turf: $10 million stadium passed
By Brendan Howe
The Western Mustang football team will be playing on artificial turf and under state-of-the-art lights in a brand new stadium starting in the year 2000, the university's Board of Governors decided yesterday.
A $10 million, 12,500 seat capacity stadium to be located on the Huron Flats was approved by the board, paving the way for the start of a $15 million fund-raising campaign, a joint effort between Western and the London Alliance Host Society.
The new facility is a result of the 2001 Canada Summer Games coming to London and the request by the London Alliance Host Society for an improved stadium. Western had the option to renovate the existing J.W. Little Stadium, which is almost 70 years old, or build a new one.
Western's VP-external Ted Garrard said none of the money used for the new stadium will come out of the university's wallet all funds will come from private investors. Of the funds being raised, $10 million will go to building the new stadium while the remaining $5 million will be used for the operating costs associated with the games.
The Mustangs' new home will feature television-quality lighting for night sporting events, artificial turf and an eight lane international standard track. In comparison with J.W. Little, it will feature improved change rooms, concession stands and media facilities.
"You can do a lot of things with the old J.W. Little stadium but you can't make it a modern facility," said Phil Bowman, chair of the London Alliance Host Society. "[The new stadium] is a better facility for the games and a better legacy for the university community."
Completion is scheduled for the summer of 2000 so, if all goes according to plan, Western's sports teams will be using the stadium in the fall of that year. The current stadium has a seating capacity of 7,500 while the new facility will have permanent seating of 8,000 with the ability to bring in another 4,500 seats for large events.
Mustang football coach Larry Haylor said the new stadium will do wonders for Western's football program and will be beneficial to many other sports teams around campus.
"The facility is going to bring great excitement to Western sports and sports in the rest of the city," he said. Haylor added groups outside the university will be able to use the new stadium much more than the present one because of its Astroturf.
He said J.W. Little is in desperate need of renovations and has a very limited life span. There is a need for a multi-use stadium on Western's campus, he added.
Garrard said the university will be attempting to raise the $10 million needed before the spring of 1999 when construction is set to begin. He said the design of the new facility will attempt to appropriately reflect the legacy of J.W. Little, a legacy Haylor is a little sad to say goodbye to.
"There's no greater fan of that environment than me," he said.