Lawrence University’s historic football stadium is getting a revamp. The Banta Bowl, tucked into a green spot in the shadow of the College Avenue Bridge, has been receiving some exciting renovations this summer — and the finished product is almost complete.
“The field is now a synthetic surface, which will allow for more use. We have raised the field several feet to make it wide enough for soccer,” explains Mike Szkodzinski, the athletic director behind the project. “We are also installing new grandstands, as well as a plaza space for spectators to gather. Finally, we have added a brand-new complex that will include a varsity football locker room, along with new concessions area and public restrooms.”
The Lawrence Vikings have called the Banta Bowl home for 50 years, and this is the first major renovation to be done in that time. The $4.5 million project has been in the works for several years, Szkodzinski explains. He started by meeting with landscaping architecture firm the Rettler Corporation to develop a “master plan for athletics.”
“At that point, I was able to work with our president and the Board of Trustees to get approval to start fundraising for the project,” says Szkodzinski. He commends the Lawrence University Development Office and Kristen Mekemson, campaign director and principal gifts officer, for making the plans into a reality. “Although it has taken years, the renovation will be worth (it) when it is completed.”
Named after legendary Lawrence football coach Ron Roberts, Roberts Field will hopefully be a hub for university athletics as well as community use.
“The main tenants of Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl will be our varsity football and soccer teams,” says Szkodzinski. “Appleton West has decided to play their home football and women’s soccer games (here) for at least this coming season.”
In addition to the home team use, there’s a world of possibilities for the updated space. “We would love to be able to host intramurals, youth soccer and football games, and possibly even a concert,” shares Szkodzinski. This wider involvement could be an effective way to connect Lawrence’s athletic community — which is already excited about the renovations — and the university’s conservatory, another integral part of the campus community. Getting additional Fox Cities groups to the field also will bring more community attention to the university and its athletics. “Over time,” continues Szkodzinski, “we fully expect the venue to be another ‘invisible bridge’ to the Appleton community as well as our students and staff.”
The Banta Bowl and Roberts Field construction began in April and is scheduled to be finished in time for the 2015 football and soccer seasons.
“We expect the building to be fully operational sometime in late September — but the field itself is nearly ready for play,” says Szkodzinski. “We will be rededicating Roberts Field on Oct. 17 during our Fall Festival weekend. Prior to that though, we will host several Appleton West football games, as well as a handful of our own.”
Viking football and men’s soccer both host their first home game of the season on Sept. 5, and women’s soccer is scheduled to open Sept. 1. Appleton West has games as early as tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 21). As the construction continues to make progress, the site will become a welcoming facility for athletes, spectators and other visitors. As Szkodzinski proclaims, “Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl will be one of the best venues for athletics in our area.”