Whitman Soccer Fields
The Whitman Athletic Fields, which feature one of the top college soccer pitches in the Northwest, have been in use for more than a decade.
The 17-acre complex is located about three blocks north of the Whitman campus, next to DeSales High School at the end of Penrose Street.
In addition to the pristine yet durable varsity soccer field, the complex has a softball field and additional fields used for soccer practice and a variety of intramural and club sports.
Dedication ceremonies for the complex were held in September of 2001, about 18 months after Whitman purchased the land from the city of Walla Walla. The college made a number of improvements to the site, including installation of underground drainage, irrigation and fertilization systems. Light poles were relocated for the varsity field, parking space added for 100-plus vehicles, and renovations made to restroom and storage facilities.
The varsity soccer field, complemented by the adjacent practice fields, has been a definite boon for Whitman's intercollegiate soccer programs, according to soccer coaches Heather Cato (women) and Mike Washington (men).
"This is the best soccer complex in our conference," Washington says. "It is comparable, in fact, to what a lot of the NCAA Division I schools have. There's no question this facility gives us a recruiting edge within our conference. Student-athletes who take soccer seriously will want to practice and play on these fields."
The varsity field, located on the east end of the site, measures 80 yards wide by 120 yards long, which is the largest dimension allowed in collegiate soccer. The playing surface runs north and south.
"The most important part of the field is the drainage system," Washington says. "Because the field drains properly when it rains, the turf is seldom if ever be a problem. Teams can maintain a higher level of play in poor weather, and there will be less chance that players will hurt knees or ankles by slipping in the mud or loose turf."
The actual playing surface sits atop 12 inches of sand and an underlying system of perforated drainage pipes that run lengthwise on the field, about 10 feet apart, noted Dan Park, director of Whitman's physical plant. The pipes, blanketed with landscaping cloth and buried in pea gravel, help carry water to a city storm drain at the north end of the complex.
The two practice fields, which have the same dimensions as the varsity field but run east and west, have similar but less expensive drainage systems. The turf covering those fields sits on top of 10 inches of sand, and the drainage pipes are set 20 feet apart.
"The drainage systems have worked tremendously well," Washington says. "In the past, that entire area was essentially a bog during the winter months. It was basically not usable for part of the year."
Varsity soccer players are not the only Whitman students who have benefitted from the new complex. The new fields brought welcome elbow room for the entire athletic program, providing adequate practice and playing space not only for the varsity soccer teams, but for club sports like lacrosse, rugby and ultimate frisbee, as well as for intramual sports. A large percentage of Whitman students are involved in varsity, club and intramural sports.
Whitman's varsity soccer typically play a few non-conference home games at night. "What's most beneficial about having one lighted field is the flexibility it gives us for practice times, especially late in the fall when the days are so short," Washington says.