One day, Bill Hempen wants women’s soccer players at Colorado State University to experience what he has in his career: Walking onto the pitch on a Friday night as a good crowd starts to liven up.
Colorado State initiated the planning process to build a women’s athletic complex on campus, one which will serve the soccer and softball programs within the former football practice area. The university has approved a $300,000 budget to pursue design options and program plans for the project, expected to cost between $6.3 and $6.5 million to build. It will be housed where the soccer field now sits, just south of the parking lot at Moby Arena.
“It is one of the coolest things to experience as a student-athlete. For 99 percent of them, that’s it, that’s the World Cup final,” said Hempen, the first and only women’s soccer coach at CSU. “I look forward to that moment for the kids, not only those who will be on the roster the day we play our first game there, but also for the kids from 2019 to know this is why they did what they did.”
A permanent home
The soccer team has played at various sites on campus since its inaugural year of 2013; the softball facility has remained virtually unchanged since before the current players were born.
“It is extremely important. Obviously we always make consistent investments in our programs,” CSU athletic director Joe Parker said. “Soccer is starting its seventh season, and they’ve played at three different locations without any permanent facility. We knew two seasons ago when they landed inside the fence line that once had been the football practice fields that that was our first step at permanence for them. Softball has played at a facility that has not received much modification in 25 years. It was time.
“You try to cross priorities off the list, and we’re finally at the point in time where we’re able to focus a lot of resources and planning in place to make sure these two sports get what I would deem best-of-class facilities.”
Parker, the athletic department, and facilities teams on campus are set to create a first-rate facility. The initial planning cost will be funded through an extension of a student fee of $5.07 per semester that was originally set to expire last year after paying off an older bond for Moby Arena construction work. The student fee board approved the measure last year.
Parker said the initial expenditure will get the university to the point where they can validate the hard and soft costs of the project and develop a program plan for the site. Final approval will then be requested from university leadership to send the project out for bid.
“I’m kinda like pinching myself right now,” softball coach Jen Fisher said. “To be a part of this is really exciting. It’s something that speaks a lot toward our leadership at Colorado State, and the student support, that was just incredible. You want to have a great game-day experience as well, and they’re supporting the women’s programs, as well. For me to have a little bit of a voice while I’m a coach here is exciting.”
Leadership has listed needs, among them permanent fan seating, a gateway to the complex, an area for concessions and restrooms, team meeting space to serve both programs, and lighting for both fields. Above all, they want the complex to carry a strong feel of Colorado State and what it projects in the design of the campus community.
CSU built Canvas Stadium at a cost of $220 million in 2017, overhauled the Jack Christiansen Track at a cost of $2.4 million and opened in 2019, and built a $200,000 indoor practice facility on campus for its men’s and women’s golf programs. Parker, who envisioned the idea of the women’s sports complex more than 18 months ago as part of his long-term plan, is happy to see it moving forward.
‘A first-class facility’
“This will be an entryway from the west, and something to make people say, ‘Wow, this is a cool place, I’m at Colorado State,'” Hempen said. “You have Moby, you’ll have the women’s athletic complex, and still in sight is the football stadium. It’s about as integrated into a campus – appropriately – as you can get. That’s why I was happy it was mentioned that it would have the really Colorado feel, that I’m coming into a first-class facility for women’s athletics.”
Both coaches said the facility represents the final piece of the recruiting puzzle. All the other facilities which serve their programs – the Anderson Academic Center, the Moby Arena Training Room, the Anderson Weight Room, and the Indoor Practice Facility – have all helped sell the university. But they’ve also heard from athletes that they’d like to play where there is a stadium feel.
Soon enough, renderings of the project will be available. With the design and bidding process yet to take place, a target date for construction and completion is still to be determined. The group hopes to have a construction RFI (request for information) out by the end of next week.
“We’ve talked a lot about what we want it to be,” Parker said. “One thing I want to see us do is build something that feels uniquely Colorado State that feels like it’s a unified complex. I think we’ll be able to achieve that, and we’ll be able to create the best fan experience possible for both programs.”
Coach Hempen reaches historic milestone
CSU women’s soccer coach Bill Hempen, who has built the program from the ground up over the past seven years, notched his 300th career win Sunday when the Rams held of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 3-2 on the CSU Soccer Field.
Hempen, who launched CSU’s program in 2013, has a record of 300-264-60 in 31 seasons as a head coach. He ranks 28th among active coaches in career wins.