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Football energized after Whittier remodel and addition of ninth game

September 15, 2017

Daniel Jang
Prettier Whittier The Polar Bears look to improve on last season’s 0-8 record as phase one of the Whittier Field remodel nears completion and a ninth game is added to the beginning of the season.

Despite a winless record of 0-8 last season, the football team is energized to begin the upcoming season after renovations to Whittier Field updated the team’s facilities and the addition of a ninth game to the schedule allows the Polar Bears to play all NESCAC teams.
Whittier Field, which was originally built in 1896, is going through two phases of remodel, with the first phase costing $4.5 million and including a turf field, new lighting, a press box and an eight-lane track. This phase is expected to be completed in time for the first home game on September 23, and the team began practicing there this week. The second phase is expected to be completed by next fall and includes a one-story building to house new locker, training and equipment rooms, as well as public restrooms, costing $3.5 million.
“Over time, the way that we were able to treat the grass field at Whittier changed in terms of some of the products that we were able to use to help ensure that we could provide a safe and reliable playing surface,” Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan said. “The track itself was installed in the early 1970’s and it had become time for the subsurface of the track to be replaced. So a combination of those two factors is really what sparked the conversation about the renovation project.”
The renovation does not affect only football. The expansion to an eight-lane track allows track and field to host larger championship events and the the new field will make scheduling team practice times much easier for intramurals and club sports as well. Ryan estimates that over 350 students athletes will be positively affected by the remodel due to both the field and the locker rooms that will be installed in the second phase of the project.
When planning the remodel, Ryan and the school took into great consideration the historical aspects of the field, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places this summer along with Hubbard Grandstand and the Class of 1903 Memorial Gates.
“We think that we’ve been able to maintain the historic nature of the facility and have been able to highlight the historic Hubbard grandstand,” he said. “So from a fan experience perspective, I think they’ll be watching the events in a very unique venue that really only will be found at Bowdoin.”
According to football captain Tyler MacNeil ’18, the new turf field will allow the team to be on the same level as other NESCAC teams.
“The field is beautiful,” he said. “Most NESCAC teams have turf, so we were always probably at a disadvantage practicing on grass and then playing on turf, so I think this will be better as a whole. We had our first practice there yesterday and it’s great being out there. We’ll see how it feels in the first home-opener.”
Head Football Coach J.B. Wells echoed MacNeil’s sentiments and believes that the new field will help energize the team, especially the upperclassmen.
“Our seniors have really worked hard the last couple of years,” Wells said. “They are a group that really had to do a big adjustment to a new coaching staff and all these new things and they’ve been awesome and they worked really hard in the off season.”
“So when that came down that we were going to be able to play on it this year, I think that was great for the mentality of the upper-class football players because we get to play on this great new facility,” he said.
Another big change this year is the addition of a ninth game to the NESCAC schedule for the first time since 1916. In the past, Bowdoin switched off between playing Williams or Middlebury first and then moving onto Amherst. This season, the Polar Bears open their season with Williams first and then move onto Middlebury the following week.
“For us to be able to add the ninth game and be able to play it is awesome because now everyone plays everyone. There will be a true league champion,” Wells said. “And the best part about it, the players get to play another game. That’s what everybody loves. No one ever goes to college and says, ‘Oh, I want to go practice my sport.’ They want to go play.”
According to captain Ryan Sanborn ’18, the team hopes to use its experience and excitement over these changes to win games.
“The big thing this year is that we want to win games,” Sanborn said. “That’s the main goal. We want to go game by game every week. We want to make sure that we put all our energy into that opponent and then we can go on to the next week.”
The team will be traveling to Williams on Saturday to face off in its first game of the season at noon.

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