Athletes at three high schools in the Diocese of Wilmington will have new or improved facilities waiting for them when pracictice starts in August, while preparation work has started at the most anticipated athletic capital project.
Baynard Stadium, the venerable multi-purpose facility across 18th Street from Salesianum, is gone, to be replaced by Abessinio Stadium. Crews from Whiting-Turner demolished Baynard in late June and early July, removing bleachers, the press box, scoreboard, concession stand and locker rooms/bathrooms.
Abessinio Stadium — named after Salesianum School alumnus and businessman Rocco A. Abessinio and his wife, Mary — is scheduled to open for the fall 2020 football season. It will include a turf field, an eight-lane composite track, new grandstands, lights, locker rooms, press box, community room, scoreboard, concessions, offices, and a maintenance facility for Delaware State Parks.
Salesianum president Brendan Kennealey said this week that the final design should be complete in about a month.
“It will be a spectacular venue for Salesianum and the community,” he said.
Abessinio donated $16 million to Salesianum, most of which is being used for the stadium project. Some of the money will go toward the school’s endowment, which provides financial aid.
A transformation is taking place at Serviam Field, the home of Ursuline’s outdoor sports. There, the Raiders’ athletes will be playing on a new Bermuda grass surface come September. It will be the new home for field hockey and lacrosse, which had previously used the lower field at Serviam. The soccer team will continue to use the upper field, although with the new surface.
Athletic director Sue Heiss said this is a project the school had been considering for several years. Bermuda grass was selected for its durability and quick turnaround time. Work at Serviam included leveling the field, correcting draining issues, eradicating all existing vegetation, aeration, and seeding. A new mower was also necessary to achieve the correct height on the cut.
“This is critical in order to successfully accomplish an optimum grow-in and Bermuda grass production,” Heiss said.
The total cost of the project, including the mower, was $26,000, she added.
More than 80 percent of Ursuline’s Upper School students compete in at least one of the 14 varsity sports the school sponsors, Heiss said. There are also 10 sports for middle and Lower School students.
Samantha Hurd, a rising junior at Ursuline, is excited about the move to the Bermuda grass surface. She plays field hockey and soccer, so she spends plenty of time at Serviam Field.
“It was in really bad shape with divots and uneven spots, which caused unpredictability with the direction that the ball would bounce,” she said. “The new grass will help with consistency of our practices and games. I am looking forward to our home opener on our new field.”
The field hockey team is scheduled to play St. Elizabeth on Sept. 10.
The lower field will continue as the practice site for middle and upper school lacrosse.
Two other schools that have made improvements are Saint Mark’s and Archmere. A new track now rings the football field at Saint Mark’s, and drainage improvements were made on the grass soccer field in front of the Patio at Archmere.
Auks athletic director David Oswinkle said the school also is in the process of kicking off a campaign to replace its two turf surfaces. Archmere uses the upper turf field for football and girls soccer, while the field hockey, boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse teams play on the lower field.