By Jamir Wilson
The fall season has returned bringing along major changes to the Salisbury University campus. The newly renovated $19 million Sea Gull Stadium was host to its first football game against Albright College on September 2. Before kickoff, the school celebrated a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new turf field.
“I can’t even begin to put into words how proud I am with the student athletes combining it all (school work and sports.) While they’re in school, they’re really dedicated to ensuring that our teams always perform well,” President of Salisbury University Janet Dudley-Eshbach said.
Performing well has become the norm for Salisbury athletics winning 19 Division III national championships in school history and 166 conference championships since joining the Capital Athletic Conference in 1994-95.
Sea Gull Stadium hosted sporting events during the tail end of the spring season. Over the summer, Salisbury began to implement 35,500 pounds of new turf fiber, 408,000 pounds of sand and 360,000 pounds of rubber.
“We had a lot of anxious moments in the spring when we were trying to get this ready for lacrosse season, so we got a few games under our belt. The field is perfect. The facilities for the young men and women are outstanding, and it’s to show our student athletes how much we appreciate them,” Salisbury University’s Athletic Director Gerry DiBartolo said.
The instillations of the new facilities have the Salisbury faithful excited. The home side of the stadium’s bleachers began to be overpopulated, and some Gulls’ fans had to be moved to the opponent’s side for the remainder of the game.
“This new field features state of the art compression technology, which will minimize the development of ruts, improving athletes’ safety and performance,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “The original turf was installed in 2007. After a few seasons, it became clear that the field was rapidly deteriorating, resulting in a whole host of problems.”
The old field’s turf did not go to waste though with almost all of the turf being recycled or repurposed. The new turf was manufactured by Shaw Sports Turf of Calhoun, GA that has been credited with installations of other prominent university’s fields such as Georgetown and John Hopkins.
The Salisbury University Athletics Department is planning to continue renovations throughout the sporting complex.
“We are working on a new softball field; hopefully, that’ll be done by the end of January. In January, we plan on building new intermural fields that will be artificial turf with lights,” said DiBartolo.
“We’re doing an improvement to both the men and women’s soccer fields, and our future plan is the build a new baseball facility where our current intermural fields are.”
Dudley-Eshbach said the motivation behind these renovations is genuinely about the athletes and for the teams.
“I’m pumped about our teams, but by the same token, it’s kind of cool that when other teams come in to play us and see what we got they may get a little intimidated.”
A new element has been added to the Salisbury football game experience this season. Tailgating is now available for the students and parents behind the tennis courts before the games.
Tailgating is a tradition that has been a part of football culture from the beginning, and bringing it to Salisbury was important for the school.
“The field was packed with everyone mingling and playing games. I’m happy they really gave us a lot of freedom,” Salisbury senior and NAACP President Dom Williams said. “People brought footballs and other games and there didn’t seem to be any problems.”
Although the tailgating was an overall success, students did have some criticism.
“If you’re going to have tailgating, there should be trashcans accessible to the students nearby at the site,” Delta Sigma Theta member and Black Student Union Vice President Jeremie Davis said.
“I didn’t like how we weren’t allowed to grill in the area,” Alpha Kappa Alpha member Allie Plater said.
Despite it being the first day of tailgating, there were people ready to soak in the moment and enjoy their time.
“It was exciting to see students have a real college experience which includes tailgating,” Davis said.
“The tailgate provided everyone a place to celebrate and show school spirit towards the game and our school. It was a lot of fun,” Plater said.
The first football game of the fall season brought a lot of new excitement to the campus and athletic program. With Sea Gull Stadium’s renovations complete, there’s a sense of Sea Gull pride that has been restored to Salisbury University.