Since early summer, the soccer field has undergone numerous changes. These include the installation of a new drainage system, LED lights, a new fence, and a laser-graded playing surface. The soccer field’s position was also shifted 20 to 30 yards to allow for future additions. These renovations were necessary due to the deterioration of the previous field, according to Head Soccer Coach Pepe Fernandez.
Fernandez began coaching at Maryville College in 1989 and is the Head Coach of both the men’s and women’s soccer teams. His career at Maryville has been marked by success, including leading the men’s and women’s teams to a combined 16 appearances in NCAA tournaments. The new upgrades to the soccer facilities have potential to further supplement the success of both soccer teams under Fernandez’s leadership.
The renovations of the soccer field are part of a larger project involving improvements made to Cooper Athletic Center, the Alumni Gym, and the soccer and softball fields. Fernandez referred to this as a “long-term project,” so students can expect to see ongoing improvements and additions.
One of these will be a building with bathroom and locker facilities. Fernandez stated that the bathrooms will accommodate not only the athletes, but fans as well, providing for a more enjoyable experience all around. Other additions involve permanent bleachers and a press box, as the current ones were installed temporarily.
The change to the facility that will perhaps make the biggest difference to players is the renovation of the field itself. Fernandez emphasized the improvement that the new drainage system has made in comparison to the state of the field before, which lacked any drainage whatsoever.
“In the past, if it rained one day, we were taking squeegees and pushing puddles off the field. Sometimes it was two or three days before it would even dry, and the field would become playable. We had to move a lot of games off campus over the past 5 years because it was just unplayable. But the field was completely dry with the new drainage system,” said Fernandez.
He also pointed out that the laser-grading and subsequent evenness of the field will complement the team’s style of play: “The style we play is a passing style game, so obviously having a good, smooth, level surface that drains well is so important to our style of play.”
Fernandez shared that the new field is made up entirely of bermudagrass, as opposed to the three different types of grass that it was composed of before. He compared it to Major League Soccer team D.C. United’s soccer field, which he said contracted the same company as Maryville College for the playing surface renovations. Fernandez feels the actual playing surface is superior to that of the University of Tennessee Women’s Soccer facility and is highly satisfied with the improvements made.
Recalling the team’s first practice on the new field, which took place on September 9, Fernandez said, “I thought it was going to be exciting, I didn’t realize how excited I would be down there. You’d think after being here so long that I wouldn’t have been so fired up about it, but it was really nice being down there.”
When asked what he thinks is the most important thing for the college community to know about the new facility, Fernandez answered that not sledding down the hill that overlooks the soccer field and into the fence was number one. “That’s the sledding hill. If you sled into that fence 50 times, it tears the whole fence down; it’s torn it down before!” he said, laughing.
Fernandez also wants the community to refrain from using the field for recreational purposes, keeping in mind how much work was put into it: “Respect it and stay off of it, because the college has invested so much in it.”