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July 30, 2007 - Aquinas College is expanding the opportunities for student-athletes with installation of an artificial playing surface to its soccer field. With the new synthetic turf, Aquinas becomes the first member of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) to have an artificial playing surface for soccer and gives the College the option to add lacrosse to its 18-sport athletic program. Work on the project began earlier this month and is set to be completed in mid-August.

The College’s Board of Trustees gave approval for the project in May. Athletics Director Terry Bocian commended the Board for its action.

“The (Board’s) decision was one of the most practical decisions ever,” he said. “The new artificial turf will give us greater flexibility, allowing us to use the field for many other activities.”

Bocian explained that, until now, only the men’s and women’s soccer teams were allowed to use the field for practices and games in order to minimize potential damage. The new synthetic surface, however, will allow us to host outdoor physical education classes, intramural activities and other field sports.

Paula Meehan, Vice President of Enrollment Management, said that the new field surface will also have a positive impact on recruiting and retaining students to Aquinas. “It gives us the ability to expand our sports program to include lacrosse,” Meehan explained. “Having that option will help us attract new students and add vitality to an already strong soccer program.”

Aquinas will hire a lacrosse coach later this year and begin recruiting athletes for the new program. A men’s club program would begin in spring 2009, followed by a women’s team in 2010.

According to research from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations, lacrosse has been the fastest-growing team sport at both the collegiate and high school levels. Participation increased 11.7 percent in 2006 with the largest component of participation at the youth level (under 15). High school lacrosse has grown to nearly 170,000 players, up 68 percent in the last five years.

Aquinas had been considering lacrosse for some time, Bocian noted, but couldn’t add the sport without an artificial turf that could ensure the integrity of the playing surface for all the sports activities that would use it. In addition, he likes the fact that lacrosse is a spring sport, which means that its schedule won’t conflict with the College’s fall soccer schedule.

The artificial surface was developed by Pittsburgh-based ProGrass, which is also overseeing the installation work.