For Bethany Lutheran’s football programs, getting a new pitch took a long time.
Men’s soccer coach Derick Lyngholm, who has coached the women for the past 12 years, recalls when it nearly happened in his second season with the school in 2007. But the recession hit and the plans were abandoned. Talks continued for the past decade, but nothing could be completed.
On Wednesday, the wait for Lyngholm and everyone else involved officially ended, as the Vikings opened their new artificial turf pitch with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a pair of UMAC games against Martin Luther.
Although the domain does not yet have a name, Lyngholm would like to name it “Valhalla” which refers to the afterlife of the Vikings.
The party scene certainly captured a slice of football heaven.
“It plays like a football pitch,” Lyngholm said. “Most of the time you play on a multipurpose court. We don’t have football lines there.
The Vikings men’s team won the first game played on the field 7-0 against rival Martin Luther.
” It was great. We’ve been looking forward to him (on the pitch) since last season,” said Bethany defender Abel Solis. “We’ve had a great year, and on this pitch you can just feel the momentum and the energy.”
Max Busch led the Vikings with three goals. Vincent Ayodi, Marcel Campabadal, Edmund Jones and Chris Quintero also scored for Bethany.
The Vikings outshot the Knights 19-2. Moritz Bruns made two shutout saves in front of goal.
From a football perspective, adjusting grass to turf is something Bethany’s men’s and women’s teams will have to deal with. They have been training on the pitch since the middle of last week, so there has been some preparation time. Prior to this week, they played home matches at the Caswell North Soccer Complex in North Mankato.
“It feels more like a grass pitch than most grass pitches,” Bethany women’s coach Emma Morris said. “I don’t expect the transition to be too difficult for us.”
Lyngholm is delighted with the transition, as he wants his team to play a fast counter-attacking style. The men’s team still has seven regular season games to play, and all of them will be played on grass.
The ground also provides a boost in terms of access for football teams, as well as the rest of the college. It will be used for intramural sports and can be used as a site for early season softball games.
“It’s going to be huge in terms of spring training in particular,” Morris said. “With sod, you can just shovel it and go. You can’t do that with weed.
While the transition certainly helps both programs on the field, the biggest impact may be off the field.
With both coaches in their first seasons with their teams, recruitment over the next two to three years will be crucial.
“I think it shows that our program is getting bigger and better every day,” said women’s team forward Maddie Perry. “Our last field wasn’t as attractive.”
The land itself is 95,880 square feet and cost $1.6 million. The works included the earthwork, the base and the turf. The project also included a stormwater retention pond and a new parking lot. The total project budget was $3 million.
Future plans may include a domed grass pitch next to the soccer field.
“It’s huge for a Division III facility to have something like this where everyone can get involved,” Morris said. “Whether it’s intramural or coming to watch a game, everyone can benefit in one way or another.”
The women lost 2-1 to Martin Luther in Wednesday’s second match.
Kenya Henderson scored Bethany’s only goal. Perry got an assist.
Leah Sonnenburg made five saves for the Vikings. Martin Luther defeated Bethany 7-5.
Both Vikings teams will play again on their new ground on Saturday. The men (9-3) will host Wisconsin-Superior at 1 p.m., and the women (6-6) will host Superior at 3:30 p.m.