Wesleyan Set to Install State-of-the-Art AstroTurf Field Hockey Field Blue Poligras Paris GT Zero surface Set to be ready for Start of 2024 preseason

The Wesleyan University Department of Athletics is pleased to announce the renovation of two fields situated behind Citrin Field, the field turf playing surface located behind the Freeman Athletic Center, with the major upgrades including a state-of-the-art blue AstroTurf field hockey field along with an improved grass field for varsity men’s and women’s soccer to use for practices. The project, which will include new lights overlooking the AstroTurf field along with fencing and a scoreboard, began this past week with anticipated completion of mid-August 2024.

Work has already started on the two fields, with the construction team set to officially break ground on Monday, April 15. The project is completely funded by gifts from alumni, parents, and friends of Wesleyan Athletics. The first phase of the build includes the new home of Wesleyan field hockey, along with new lights, fencing, and scoreboard, as well as the new primary practice surface for Wesleyan varsity men’s and women’s soccer. The secondary phase, including bleachers and a press box for the AstroTurf field, is set for a later date.

The future home site of Wesleyan field hockey

The surface itself is called Poligras Paris GT zero, developed for the Paris 2024 Olympics is the world’s first and only carbon zero hockey turf and has been certified to not require irrigation. Made from 80% sugarcane, the Poligras Paris GT zero turf saves 73 tons of Co2 compared to a conventional turf. The carbon footprint of the turf has been certified as a climate-neutral and features a new friction-reducing technology called Turf Glide, which reduces friction and abrasion, allowing the turf to meet standards for ‘dry hockey.’

Head field hockey coach Christine Kemp and Athletic Director Mike Whalen '83 posing at the ceremonial first dig

In many locations the atmospheric moisture, such as light rain or dew on a cool night, will be enough to transform the turf to Olympic level performance. This gives facilities the flexibility to do a dry installation (without an irrigation system) and benefit from an upgrade where there is moisture in the air.

Members of the Wesleyan field hockey team and coaching staff posing with sections of the Poligras Paris GT zero turf

First installed in the United State in Charlotte, North Carolina, home to USA Field Hockey’s National Training Center, Wesleyan will be one of the first colleges in the country to use the Paris Turf and the first in the state of Connecticut.

Innovation is nothing new for the Wesleyan field hockey program, as field hockey was the first women’s varsity sport played at Wesleyan following the passing of Title IX in 1972. The program first played on a small grass field called Fauver Field, just to the left of the driveway leading up to the Foss Hill dorms. Then the team moved to the grass field inside the Andersen Track behind the Freeman Athletic Center before construction was finished on Smith Field, where the team has played all their home games since 2006.

Home Sites of Wesleyan Field Hockey Through the Years

1972-1990s - Fauver Field

1990s-2005 - Grass Field inside Andersen Track

2006-2023 - Smith Field

Playing in the most-competitive conference in the country for field hockey, Wesleyan has made considerable strides of-late in the NESCAC, landing signature wins over Tufts in 2019 and Trinity in 2021 before a major breakout season in 2023. This past fall, Wesleyan went 9-7 and 5-5 in NESCAC play, wrapping up its most-successful season in well over a decade. The Cardinals were nationally ranked, getting as high as No. 16, while Wesleyan landed four wins over ranked opponents including a 2-1 overtime triumph at then-No. 5 Tufts along with home victories over No. 11 Bowdoin, No. 14 Trinity, and No. 15 Hamilton. The nine wins are the most the team has achieved in a single-season since 2010.

In addition to the AstroTurf installation, the new varsity soccer practice field next to the new home site of Wesleyan field hockey is getting a facelift with new grass, lighting, and fencing. The lighting for the varsity practice field will come from two forward and backward facing lights used for the installation of East-facing side lights on the AstroTurf surface.

The future site of Wesleyan varsity men's and women's soccer practices

Also benefitting from the renovations are the Wesleyan intramural and club sport population. For several decades, the two grass fields have been used for intramural and club soccer, ultimate frisbee, and softball. With Wesleyan’s varsity soccer teams both moving to a new practice field, the two grass fields on Upper Long Lane will be utilized by intramural and club sports. In addition, with field hockey moving practices and games to the new AstroTurf surface, Smith Field becomes available as both a field turf practice surface for varsity soccer and an additional space for intramural and club sports in the fall.

Support for this project came from several sources, many of which are Wesleyan alums and parents, including lead donors Peter ‘72 and Jeff Hicks ‘67. Upon completion, field hockey’s new AstroTurf surface will be named Hicks Field in recognition of their leadership gifts made in support of women’s athletics at Wesleyan.

Wesleyan field hockey alumnae gathered to watch the Cardinals defeat Trinity 4-1 this past fall

The 2024 field hockey home opener is slated for Wednesday, September 11 at 6:30 PM against Western New England while the first NESCAC game played on Hicks Field is scheduled for Saturday, September 21 against Bates at 11 AM.

What They’re Saying About the Renovation:

“Our vision for excellence must include the environment we create for our players to thrive in, on and off the playing field. The construction of our new field, with the premier surface for our sport, marks a pivotal moment in our journey towards elite performance. I believe in the dedication and potential of our players, and this facility will no doubt amplify their capabilities. What this means to all of us is indescribable and undoubtedly exciting! A heartfelt thank you to our Athletic Director, Mike Whalen, and our generous donors for sharing our belief and investing in our team's success." – Wesleyan field hockey head coach Christine Kemp

“Seeing this project through, knowing the importance of AstroTurf in the sport of field hockey and how many individuals and teams will benefit from this renovation, will greatly enhance the overall experience of Wesleyan students. I’d like to recognize Peter and Jeff Hicks as well as the many alumni and parents who stepped up to support this project, without whom this wouldn’t have been possible. The addition of a third turf field will enable us to better support a number of our varsity, intramural, and club teams and is another example of the University’s continued commitment to supporting women’s athletics.” – Wesleyan Director of Athletics Mike Whalen ‘83

“The new turf field is much more than a premier athletic playing surface. Upon completion, the field will further the remarkable ascendency of women’s athletics at Wesleyan and the legacy of previous field hockey players over a 50-year span. Our family is pleased to participate with other donors to support this exciting and worthwhile project.” – Peter Hicks ‘72

"When I think about the best games I have played in my career, all have been on AstroTurf. I don't mean these were games in which I dodged three people in a row to get a shot off and score, but these were games that elevated my team's play. These games were full of great ball speed, clean receptions, and all the aspects of proper field hockey that make the sport competitive and fun. It's always a treat to travel to schools that give us this opportunity to play with the speed of an AstroTurf field, but my team and I would love to have the style of play that comes with the surface as a permanent part of our growing program. I am already so proud of what Wesleyan Field Hockey has achieved over the past three years I've had the honor to play, so the addition of an AstroTurf field to our team’s arsenal deepens my gratitude for this program tenfold." - Helen Deretchin '25, one of four team captains

"AstroTurf is such an important aspect of elevating the level of play when it comes to field hockey. All the best teams play on AstroTurf, and I believe that us playing on this surface will truly elevate our play and allow us to be even more of a top competitor. AstroTurf not only makes the ball speed quicker, but also allows us to have cleaner receptions, better shots and just overall better play. I think that the Wesleyan Field Hockey team has had exponential growth already, but playing on AstroTurf would allow us to reach our highest potential and to compete for NESCAC and NCAA Championships. Our team is capable of so much more than we have already accomplished on field turf - the opportunity to elevate our game play and reach new heights as a team is only possible through AstroTurf." – Audrey Pace '26, All-American goalkeeper

“During my four years at Wes, I only got to play on a turf field once. It was at an away game against Westfield State University where it also happened to be lobster night in the cafeteria… what a treat on every dimension! For a dual sport ice hockey player, it was such fun to have a fast and true surface more akin to the rink. I thought immediately this was how the game was meant to be played! Forty years later I am happy to help ensure that the current generation of Cardinals gets to play on the best pitch in NESCAC!” – Leslie Henshaw ‘85

“In the really old days, team members were out trying to get the grass cut and a few lines painted for the demarcation of the field. Then an allocated field that physical plant actually took care of. In recent years a decent but obsolete turf field. But now, Wesleyan has finally committed to a state-of-the-art option. No more lagging behind. Getting out in front of the pack. A great message of support for this team and future team members. A big thank you to all who have backed this endeavor. Can’t wait to see the new field and the team on it!” – Fran Rivkin ‘78

“The improvement from what we experienced on Fauver Field is just enormous. The turf field really put us at a disadvantage when playing the other NESCAC schools who have AstroTurf, because of our training and practice on the slower field turf. This new surface is state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly, helping us to really compete against the best of the best. I think it’s amazing that we’ve gotten full support of the alumni base and hopefully we can take another step forward and elevate the program to the top of the NESCAC.” – Linda Polonsky ’82, Wesleyan Hall of Fame inductee