Day after day for the last three years, women’s soccer coacåh Seamus O’Connor drove back and forth from Main Campus to the Ambler Sports Complex.
Each time, it seemed like more and more balls, pinnies, cones and other gear filled his car as O’Connor and his team went to and from their home field.
That has changed this year with the opening of the Temple Sports Complex. The brand new facility will house both soccer teams, field hockey, lacrosse and track & field just a few blocks south of Morgan Hall.
“This is the first preseason my car hasn’t looked like a Dick’s Sporting Goods,” O’Connor said.
The new complex, located at the former site of William Penn High School, is bordered by Master Street to the north, extends south to Girard Avenue and is bordered by Broad and 13th streets to the west and east respectively. The university bought the site of William Penn for $15 million in June 2014, and the Board of Trustees approved the $22 million project in October 2014.
The Temple Sports Complex is comprised of a turf soccer field, another field for field hockey and lacrosse, an outdoor track and an 11,000 square foot building in between that features the home locker rooms, a visiting locker room, coaches’ offices and a training room.
Men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and lacrosse will host home games and will practice at the Temple Sports Complex. The men’s and women’s cross country teams have already used the new track to practice. Club teams and campus recreation will also have access to the new facility.
The women’s soccer team held the first practice at the new complex on Aug. 5 and played the first game on Aug. 19.
The soccer field has bleachers to seat as many as 500 fans and is equipped with lights, so the soccer teams can play night games like most of their conference opponents.
At the first women’s soccer game, the reported attendance total was 621. The men’s soccer team drew 878 in its home-opener, and more than 1,000 fans attended a game on Sunday. The field hockey team will play its first game at Howarth Field in the complex on Friday.
Last season the men’s soccer team had 700 people at its opener, while the women’s team had 105.
“I think they’re going to have to make it bigger because we’re going to get more than 500 fans here,” redshirt-junior men’s soccer player Mark Grasela said.
The round-trip travel from Main Campus to Ambler took its toll in multiple ways on the soccer teams. One of the effects was the knock on recruiting.
On some recruiting trips, visiting players would tour the school and watch the team practice somewhere on Main Campus, and never visit the actual fields at Ambler. Coaches expect the new complex can be a recruiting tool for their teams.
“The current group of freshmen are the first group I really started selling it to because at that point I felt pretty sure it was happening,” O’Connor said. “It’s probably not a coincidence that now we have a kid from Chicago, a kid from Boston.”
Student-athletes’ performances on the field and in the classroom were also impacted by the travel time, which took nearly two hours from their schedules.
Athletes were not close enough to put in extra hours of practice on the fields, and the athletic training facilities were 45 minutes away after they got to Ambler.
“We definitely think it’s going to help them,” MacWilliams said. “It’s going to help them in the classroom, help them in the field. They’ll be a lot fresher.”
“That’s going to be even more noticeable when you’re playing in the midseason because we used to do the trek up to Ambler everyday, and that gets old, particularly when you’re in the midseason to late season,” he added.
The Temple Sports Complex has brought more teams together. The men’s and women’s soccer teams were geographically separated from the rest of the student-athletes when they were at Ambler.
The men’s soccer team and field hockey team were both in attendance along with interim president Richard Englert and Athletic Director Pat Kraft for the women’s soccer game on Aug. 19.
“It’s nice to have all the teams around to support each other,” Grasela said. “It’s nice to have people around and just see what’s going on throughout the year because when we go to Ambler we don’t see people as much because it’s so far.”
“I wanted to be there for the opening,” Englert said. “It is beautiful.”
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com.