WILLIAMSTOWN -- Nearly four years to the day after being suspended, the project to renovate Williams College’s Weston Field is moving forward again.
President Adam Falk announced in a letter to the Williams College community Monday that the college’s board of trustees voted to proceed with the $22 million project over the weekend.
"I write with the great news that the Weston Field renovation project is now going ahead," he said. "Every effort will be made to complete the detailed design work in time to begin construction after the 2013 fall season, and finish it in time for the following fall."
Much-needed facilities for the varsity sports of field hockey, football, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s track and recreational use will be among the many improvements resulting from the project, he said.
"Those facilities will be safer and more inviting for both athletes and fans. The project will also free up space on Cole Field for junior varsity, club, intramural and recreational use," he said.
He added that the college will also finally be able to decommission the restrooms at the field, which were, he said jokingly, "first used in the Middle Ages."
The renovation of Weston Field was one of two capital projects put on hold in October 2008 during the global financial crisis. The other was the renovation of Stetson Hall into the new Sawyer Library. That project began in June 2011 and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2014. Besides the library, the renovated Stetson Hall will also house the Center for Media Initiatives, the Chapin Library of Rare Books, and the college’s archives and special collections.
Falk said the Stetson-Sawyer project began when Williams was able to meet its new ground rule of starting a large capital project only after it had underwritten most of the cost through philanthropy.
"With Weston, we used the intervening time to reimagine the once-in-a-lifetime possibilities the project afforded," he said. "What had been an effort to address deficiencies and squeeze a new building between two playing fields became a holistic look at how the complex could best support our approach to athletics, with its emphasis on broad participation and excellence within Division 3."
James Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs, said the current project is much better than the one that was weeks away from getting under way four years ago.
"It’s better for spectators and for athletics. It’s going to be greener, and it’s going to be more environmentally sensitive, with Christmas Brook right nearby," he said.
One of the primary differences between the project plans now versus those of four years ago is the track is separate from the football field, he said.
"The football field will be roughly where it is now, but closer to Latham Street," Kolesar said. "The track will be south of that. Lamb Field will be reoriented a bit for those pieces to work together."
More than half of the $22 million needed to pay for the project has been raised through philanthropy, and efforts continue to raise more, Kolesar said.
He said the practice of starting a large capital project only after underwriting most of the cost was one of Williams’ responses to the global financial crisis.
"Before 2008, the college often entered into a large capital project knowing it would finance it somehow, but without details of those finances," he said.
While the college’s debt is still manageable, it’s more than it was 10 years ago, and the endowment isn’t growing at the rate it used to, he said.
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