Fields of Dreams

by Lynn Otto

Above: Pictured left to right: Tim Hyatt, Melissa Leighty, Manfred Tschan, Robin Baker, Tim Tsohantaridis, Andrew Hetherington, Connor Campbell, Joan Austin, Ken Austin.

The possibilities are immense. At nearly 23 acres, George Fox University’s Austin Sports Complex is huge, and it’s starting to take shape. The facility will feature state-of-the-art playing fields for football, lacrosse and soccer, house a stadium and an athletic center, expand learning and leadership opportunities, and share space with the Newberg community.

Located a half-mile north of the Newberg campus at the corner of North Villa Road and East Crestview Drive, the acreage is being transformed into a multi-use athletic facility. It will include two synthetic turf fields, an athletic center building, three grass fields and a walking/jogging path.

Newberg philanthropists Ken and Joan Austin donated the land, worth more than $5 million, which makes it the most generous gift the university has ever received. The Austins are the owners and founders of A-dec, the world’s largest dental manufacturing company. Ken is also a member of the George Fox Board of Trustees.

By fall 2010, a competition-size soccer/lacrosse field will be completed, with grandstands, lights, and AstroTurf. “It can drain 20 inches of rain per hour,” says Mike Goins, vice president for financial affairs. “We’ll have a playable field on rainy days – that’s kind of important in Oregon.”

What Bruin soccer players are saying

"The new fields are going to be a smash hit. I think that they’re going to give fans a greater desire to attend sporting events and cheer on their favorite Fox teams. With greater support, the teams’ morale will go way up"
Katelyn Peer, forward, junior psychology major, Chelan, Wash.

"I’m stoked about what the complex will bring to the program. I’ll actually have a good field to defend. We’ll have one of the best fields in the league and more clout with the other teams."
Kristopher Brown, defender, junior mechanical engineering major, Monmouth, Ore.

"The new complex will help bring high school players interested in a program that has beautiful and state of the art facilities. It will also provide the perfect atmosphere for families to bring their kids and enjoy a sporting event."
Sean Jany, midfielder, sophomore international studies major, Bend, Ore.

"They are incredible. What a gift to all of us!"
Mikayla Todd, outside midfield, sophomore biology major, Boise, Idaho

The men’s and women’s soccer teams attended the groundbreaking for their new field, and they can’t wait to use it next fall. “No more ankle deep water on the sidelines,” said Bruins’ captain Melissa Leighty, a junior nursing major from Canby, Ore. “With the new field, we’ll be prepared to take on the conference and show them that George Fox is a force to be reckoned with.”

In March, the university’s board of trustees approved the return of football to George Fox after a more than 40-year hiatus from the sport. The Bruins will kick off their Division III college football program in the fall of 2013. The university hopes to add women’s lacrosse by the spring of 2012.

Both programs will attract students, something university President Robin Baker understands well. “Basketball is what brought me to college,” he says. But Baker says sports do more than increase enrollment: “There’s something about athletics that’s vital to the experience of education. You gain lessons that add to what’s in the classroom, so the fields are important to us.”

The first major donation for the property’s development came from Brad and Katherine Stoffer and the Boedecker Foundation. The $1.2 million gift, announced in July 2009, will fund much of the construction of the Stoffer Family Stadium, which will include a synthetic turf field for football, soccer and lacrosse.

In October 2009 an anonymous Newberg family offered to match every dollar raised in individual gifts of $25,000 or less, up to a total of $250,000, by June 30, 2010.

In April 2010 the project received $300,000 from Pacific Fibre Products of Longview, Wash. The donation represents the latest gift from a longtime benefactor: the Lemmons family, who began supporting the university financially when Pacific Fibre’s founder and former president, John Lemmons, served on the George Fox Board of Trustees during the late 1980s. His son Larry is now the company’s president.

Tim Hyatt (G89), a Bruin soccer player from 1985 to 1988, represented George Fox University alumni at the groundbreaking ceremony. He said one of the lessons he learned on the playing field was “Working together leads to greater success than individual efforts.”

Estimated cost for phase one of the complex is $6.5 million, and $2.1 million has been raised so far. Eleven acres of the site will be developed through construction of the two synthetic turf fields, the Stoffer Family Stadium, and the athletic center building. The university is working on a cooperative arrangement with the local parks district to fund development of the remaining 12 acres in phase two of the project, which will include three grass fields.

Austin Sports Complex Development

Austin Sports Complex

The development of the Austin Sports Complex will be tackled in two phases:

Phase 1
Development of 11 of the 23 acres of land through construction of the synthetic turf soccer/lacrosse field, the multi-use stadium with synthetic turf field, and the athletic center building.
A. Soccer/lacrosse game field
B. Stoffer Family Stadium
C. Multi-use field building

Phase 2
Development of the remaining 12 acres, which will include the installation of the three grass fields.
D. Grass practice field
E. Soccer fields

If you’d like to contribute, contact Fred Gregory, vice president for university engagement, at fgregory@georgefox.edu or 503-554-2103.