'Score One for Alfred' campaign to enhance athletics and recreational facilities
Alfred University has a long, storied history in intercollegiate athletics, with thousands of AU students counting participation in sports among the many activities that helped round their college experience.
Football may be the most visible and longest-tenured varsity sport at Alfred — the team played its inaugural season in 1895 and legendary former coach Alex Yunevich was well-known in collegiate football circles throughout his 36-year tenure prowling the Saxons’ sidelines. But AU is renowned for providing a wide variety of opportunities for young men and women to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level.
The importance of intercollegiate athletics to recruiting students to Alfred University is obvious. Approximately one-quarter of the student body participates in a varsity sport. Of the freshmen men who entered the University this fall, half were members of the football team. Facilities play a significant role not only in the University’s ability to develop and sustain successful intercollegiate athletic programs, but also in attracting students to AU.
Enhancing the athletics and recreational facilities through “Alfred University Athletics: Score One for AU,” a $14 million capital campaign project will help AU meet the extracurricular needs of its entire student body and the Alfred University community as a whole. Already, significant improvements have been made to Merrill Field, and the University is proposing to build a new on-campus softball field and construct an addition to the James A. McLane Physical Education Center, dedicated to promoting health and wellness in the Alfred community.
The history of intercollegiate athletics at Merrill Field brings two names to mind: Alex Yunevich and Doris Harrington. Yunevich, in addition to guiding the Saxon football program to national prominence over an era than spanned five decades, also coached wrestling and golf at AU. Harrington, the former chairperson of the Alfred University Division of Physical Education, is regarded as one of the people most responsible for helping expand women’s intercollegiate athletic offerings at AU.
The project proposes to name all outdoor athletic facilities in Yunevich’s honor. The Yunevich Sports Complex will comprise the newly-renovated football field — Yunevich Stadium at Merrill Field; the new softball field, Harrington Park; the current tennis courts and a new practice field.
Yunevich Stadium at Merrill Field: $1.25 million
One of the cornerstones of Alfred’s athletic program and for many a beloved centerpiece of the AU campus, Merrill Field has hosted countless games over the years. For so many AU students, the contests at Merrill Field provide some of the most vivid memories of their time here.
Five of Alfred’s 23 varsity intercollegiate athletic teams — football, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s lacrosse — call Merrill Field home. Combining the rosters of those teams with students participating in physical education classes and intramural teams, well over 400 AU students use Merrill Field each year.
During the summer of 2010 the University completed major renovations to Merrill Field, replacing the 11-year-old Astroturf playing surface with new state-of-the-art FieldTurf. The home grandstand bleachers were removed and replaced with new aluminum bleachers and more than 200 stadium-style seats. The press box was replaced and improvements were done to concession stand and restroom facilities.
The football team, led by head coach Dave Murray, has enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, winning four straight ECAC bowl games from 2004-07 and earning appearances in the NCAA playoffs in 2009 and 2010. In the inaugural season on the newly-renovated Merrill Field, AU won 10 games (tying a school single-season record) and won two NCAA playoff games to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.
In 13 seasons (from 1998-2010), Murray has 86 career coaching victories, second only to the 177 Yunevich amassed in 36 seasons on the Saxon sidelines, and had twice led AU to Empire 8 Conference titles. Murray, the Empire 8 Coach of the Year in 2005, 2009, and 2010, routinely brings 100 or more new recruits to the AU campus each fall.
Take Your Seat Program
The Take-Your-Seat program is an initiative to help fund the Merrill Field renovations. The stadium-style seats, located at midfield, are available at a cost of $2,000 a seat. Buyers’ names, or the name of someone they choose, will be placed on the seat back. The seats will be reserved for all home games for the next 10 years, starting this fall. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
McLane Center Annex: $8.5 million
New York State funding will make possible the health and wellness annex to the McLane Center. The addition, at the north end of McLane, will house an indoor four-lane track and three basketball courts; men’s and women’s locker rooms; storage areas, and an elevator leading to the street level entrance of McLane.
The recreation center will benefit the AU community and the Alfred community at large. It will be open to the public, providing a facility that can host activities aimed at promoting health and fitness. It will also provide a training facility for the Saxon track teams and the courts will help accommodate the University’s intramural programs.
Harrington Park Softball and practice fields: $3 million
The Alfred University softball team has made significant strides since the program’s inception 17 years ago. Once regularly positioned at the bottom of the Empire 8 Conference standings, the Saxons are regular contenders for the conference title and have become one of the top programs in Division III.
The 2010 team went 37-8, winning its first-ever Empire 8 regular season title and first-ever berth in the NCAA championship tournament. AU boasts the 2009 and 2010 Empire 8 Players of the Year and the 2010 season’s team earned the program’s first-ever national ranking and produced its first-ever All-American.
Alfred’s success has coincided with the arrival of Gino Olivieri as head coach. Appointed the school’s first-ever full-time head coach prior to the 2006 season, Olivieri has guided the team to 137 wins — 56 more than in the previous 12 years combined — and has twice been named Empire 8 Coach of the Year. Olivieri, a tireless recruiter well respected in prep softball circles, has secured players from throughout the country. Last year’s roster numbered 20,with players from several states, including California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
The University plans to build an on-campus softball field on what is now Tucker Field. For most of the program’s 17-year existence, the Saxons have practiced on Tucker and played their home games at Hornell High School. The new field would include spacious dugouts; a press box/equipment storage building; bleachers, and home and visitor bullpens. The field dimensions would meet specifications allowing AU to host Empire 8, NCAA and ECAC tournaments.
Plans are to name the softball facility after Doris Harrington, a 1987 inductee into the AU Athletic Hall of Fame. Harrington is former chairperson of the University’s Division of Physical Education — the first woman to chair a division at AU — and is regarded as one of the people most responsible for helping expand women’s intercollegiate athletic offerings at AU. It was Harrington who helped pave the way for Alfred to offer varsity softball in 1993 and the team’s success today is a part of her legacy.
The new softball facility on Tucker will require construction of a new practice field. Currently the football, soccer and lacrosse teams practice on Tucker Field, which also plays host to countless intramural contests. To accommodate those activities, the University plans to build a new practice field, with lighting.
Beautification and Facility Upgrades: $1.25 million
One of Alfred University’s greatest attributes is the unique beauty of its campus. Located in the wooded foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, the campus is picturesque, with a blend of carefully restored older buildings and new contemporary facilities.
A beautification project targeting the outdoor athletic facilities will preserve and enhance Alfred University’s appearance, creating a welcoming gateway into the community and providing visitors with breathtaking new views of the campus.
For visitors to Alfred University traveling from the north, the University’s athletic facilities provide their first view of the campus. The improvements and additions at Merrill Field and the surrounding area will be enhanced greatly by planned aesthetic upgrades, which include new fencing and shrubbery and removal of brush and overgrowth along the banks of the Kanakadea Creek. Decorative archways will welcome visitors as they drive to the parking area behind the Merrill Field grandstand or walk from the main McLane Center lot to Merrill Field.
A pavilion is planned for the lawn behind the south endzone of Merrill. It will be used to host receptions and special gatherings of alumni and friends, or provide a place for fans to sit and take in a game.
The restrooms and concession stand at Merrill Field, as well as the ticket booth at the south entrance, need to be replaced. With the addition of a softball field, and increased attendance at games played at Merrill, there will be a need for expanding the facilities in that area of the athletics complex. This will further improve the fan experience at games contested at what will be Yunevich Stadium and the new Harrington Park.