Why New Fields?

Why We Needed New Fields

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In June 1911, St. Albans purchased its playing fields. Thanks to sprinter and world-record holder Untz Brewer (STA 1916), our track was quickly recognized as one of the fastest in the country. Our baseball diamond and football field, located near where they were in 2015, garnered praise as the finest outdoor athletic facility in the area.

By 2016 this was no longer true.

Our fields did not meet current standards for grade-school athletics. In terms of size and condition, our fields paled beside those of area schools, both public and private. In our athletic league, the IAC, we were the only school without field turf. Prospective students had been known to turn down St. Albans because of our poor athletic facilities. The lack of field space greatly limited the amount of time our students have to practice and play on regulation surfaces.

Size: Our location in the city and the fixed borders of the Cathedral Close limited the size of our fields. We had less field space than any other IAC team. By cutting into the hillside, we gained 1.5 acres for our fields.

Condition: St. Albans had only one regulation playing field, Satterlee-Henderson Field, shared by the football and soccer teams in the fall and by the lacrosse and baseball teams in the spring. Throughout the year, 25 varsity, junior varsity, and Lower School interscholastic teams took turns on this one field. The field was overused; in poor weather, it could not be used. (When it rained on Homecoming, we held our “home game” on another school’s field.) All winter, the fields were closed for sodding.

Anyone who played on the field in recent years witnessed the large dirt patches, mud, and ruts caused by overuse. The Washington Post generously described our old soccer field in an article as “rugged.”

Scheduling: When four JV and varsity teams competed to use the same field each season, complications arose. In the fall, varsity football generally practiced on the baseball diamond’s left field (there was more grass there), while the soccer team practiced on the narrow strip along Garfield Street known as the third field, or the Beach.

In winter, the field was closed.

In spring, the baseball team took its time batting in the cage so that lacrosse had time on the game field; a JV team might have been found on the Beach—unless track was throwing discus or shot put.

On game days, the schedule tightened even more. Practicing teams ended up on any available patch—on the newly turfed area across from the Lower School entrance (fondly known as the Prison Yard), in the gym, on the Folger Games Deck above the pool roof, or on the Little Field.

“St. Albans must have had the greatest infielders in all of baseball because there was not a true hop that comes off that baseball field. We were obliged to do better—and we have.”

—Rob Carter ’80, STRIVE Campaign Co-Chair