Every athlete wants the perfect place to play the game they love. It is a fantasy for student athletes at schools all over the country to be able to compete in their sport with the most up to date playing surface and facilities. At Muhlenberg, two programs were able to acquire facility upgrades that make their home field more outstanding than before.
This past Saturday, September 23rd, Muhlenberg’s women’s and men’s soccer teams, respectively, got to show off their own new additions to their home pitch, Varsity Field. The unveiling of the recent enhancements took place during their day-night double header against Centennial Conference rivals Dickinson and Swarthmore.
The improvements were four Kwik Goal team shelters. The structures, which take the place of ordinary silver metal benches, made their debut on the east sideline, with two on each team’s half of the field.
According to the Kwik Goal website, the shelters stand about seven feet tall and are walled with lightly tinted polycarbonate glass. Under its curved top there are individual luxury cushioned seats for players who are not in the game, and coaches to watch from.
Though luxurious, the shelters have hefty price, but also a story. First, the price and the shelters’ utility. Although the exact total is not accessible from sources, the Kwik Goal shelters’ list price on the Kwik Goal website range from $13,300 to $14,000. Multiply that by four shelters along the sidelines of Varsity Field and the bill could potentially land anywhere in the $52,000 – $56,000 range.
But even at a steep penny, it is unfair to judge the shelters solely based on price. The program had actually been looking upgrade Varsity Field in some capacity. “The game field needed a little face lift,” said Sean Topping, the men’s soccer team’s head coach, “these shelters give the facility a professional type of look.” Also, the shelters are barriers from the rain and cold, which can keep and help players warm up quicker, reducing the chance of injury for players going in the game as substitutions. Coach Topping also described a more “enclosed” atmosphere, promoting more of a stadium atmosphere where the eyes of spectators will no longer drift and view of spacious practice soccer field in the background. “The Centennial Conference has a lot of great soccer facilities,” Topping said. “We also have a fantastic upgraded facility. Think about that atmosphere on the corner of campus for a night game.”
These shelters give the facility a professional type of look.
Co-captain defender, Jan Chmura ’18 was on the same page as his head coach. “Besides providing benefits of comfort and protection from harsh weather the shelters add professionalism as well as aesthetics to the facilities,” said Chmura. “The team loves the additions to the game field, it reminds every one of the support the school has for our program and our ambitions of constantly improving.”
Support. That is the real story behind the Kwik Goal shelters.
And with the support Chmura talks about, the idea of a shelter upgrade became proposal and the proposal came alive. But reaching the looming fundraising goal in the mid $50,000 range is not easy for any program to accomplish, nonetheless a sports program at a small private institution.
To create a successful strategy for fundraising, Topping noted the importance of informing potential donors of the specific upgrades the program wanted to achieve, in this case the shelters. “People want to know what their money is going towards,” said Topping. With this formula in mind the Mules found a helping hand.
Not all of the details are known about the shelters’ trip to Varsity Field, but Topping talked about someone stepping up to the plate, or in this case, the penalty mark. We don’t know who that someone is. We may never know who that someone is. As of now we do know is that the project started moving forward after one particular “anonymous matching gift,” said Topping.
After the undisclosed donation is when the Mules soccer program sought to accomplish the challenge to match. The annual athletic fundraising event, Mule Madness, presented itself as the perfect opportunity. “We had an anonymous donor give a significant gift towards the soccer shelters, which was a very specific need of the soccer programs. Through Mule Madness and some conversations with other alumni we are working toward matching that donation. Mule Madness is a way to supplement and support that initiative,” said Leading Gift Officer at Muhlenberg College, Kim Stolarik. Mule Madness turned out being the great spark to matching the anonymous donor. “We still have a little ways to go (for funding the shelters), but anything the soccer programs are doing, both men’s and women’s, goes towards helping support them,” Stolarik added.
The “little ways” the soccer programs have to turn their matching challenge into an accomplishment comes with much appreciation and many thanks. Topping called fundraising efforts by all parties “greatly important.” He added, “our operational budget only goes so far.” Chmura had a similar opinion. “Our facilities and fields are some of the top in the conference. A lot of work goes in every to ensure the field is in mint condition.”
The story behind the shelters seem to be as interesting as they appear on the sidelines, but there is no doubt that this team effort by Muhlenberg’s soccer programs gets them one step closer to them having the field of their dreams.