by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Barton College took a major step forward in the future of its athletics program and student experience on Wednesday, breaking ground on a new multipurpose turf field.
The facility, which will be constructed in the heart of Barton’s campus, will serve as the home of the school’s lacrosse programs. The field will also be marked with lines for football and soccer, and will serve as host site for a variety of campus functions.
“Jeremiah 31:21 calls us to set markers and guideposts for others to follow so that you can chart a path and find a roadmap both to and from certain places,” Dr. Douglas N. Searcy, president of Barton College, told a crowd of more than 150 attendees representing the College’s Board of Trustees, donors, the City of Wilson, construction partners, students, faculty, and staff. “Today, Barton College sets the marker here on this campus for our progress, for our innovation, and for our priorities.
“This project that we are getting ready to kick off certainly represents growth in our athletic department and in our student experience,” Dr. Searcy continued. “But it also demonstrates enthusiasm and energy that has been building over the course of my tenure. It demonstrates the idea that Barton College wants to do more than just the status quo. We want to raise the bar for our institution and for our community, and we believe that today is a marker for that type of activity.”
The turf field is expected to be completed in time for the men’s lacrosse team to make its program debut in the spring of 2019. The women’s program will begin its third season of play.
“This turf field is a huge addition to our athletic program,” said Todd Wilkinson, Barton’s director of athletics. “There was a time in working with Dr. Searcy when I said, ‘you’re going to put it where?’ The vision is tremendous to have it on this piece of property (just across from Wilson Gymnasium and in front of East Campus Suites) … It’s going to bring a great deal of activity to our campus. It’s going to be exciting to have the lights on and the students be able to walk from the dorm to a competition.”
“This field helps us better accomplish our stated mission, and today marks a significant milestone in Barton College’s relationship with the greater Wilson community,” added Warren Shumate, men’s lacrosse head coach. “This turf field has already improved recruitment across the board for all sports. It will allow for a consistent and safe playing surface. It does not require time off during the off-season for grass to re-grow, cutting into practice time. Its proximity to campus will better connect athletes to our campus culture, and bring countless outreach opportunities for the athletic department to host competition for the Wilson community.”
The multipurpose facility is the first of several enhancements coming to campus athletic, academic and resident facilities over the next few years as part of the college’s strategic plan.
“This new turf field paves the way for many new and unique opportunities for our devoted coaches and students,” noted D. Stuart Walston, Jr., chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Barton College Board of Trustees. “On and off the field, these students are propelled to succeed both academically and athletically, and the trustees are proud to reinforce these endeavors.”
The Reverend Dr. Robert B. Cayton, member of the Barton College Board of Trustees, provided a prayer of dedication for the field prior to the groundbreaking ceremony.
Those participating in the turning of the soil included David Browning, vice president for administration and finance at Barton College; Shumate; Wilkinson; Walston; Searcy; Matt Whitley, senior vice president and Wilson market executive of Southern Bank, a donor of the project; Mike Bryant, executive vice president of Southern Bank; the Honorable C. Bruce Rose, mayor of Wilson; and Ken Kennedy III, a member of the Barton College Board of Trustees and a donor of the project.