West fields with Boys' Dorm on right: water-turf multipurpose field (bottom), Marston Baseball Field (left), and two multipurpose fields (top). Bill Simon Field House (not pictured) is below the water-turf field.
When Shawn Brown took over as School athletics director in 2015, he opened his top-right desk drawer and found a faded plan to completely overhaul the School’s athletics facilities. It dated back to 1998.
This is evidence that the Simon Athletic Complex, currently under construction on the School campus, realizes the dreams of decades of Principia coaches, administrators, and student-athletes.
The renovated and updated athletic fields portion of the project will nearly double the number of fields available to student-athletes and community sports teams when completed by next spring. Only McCandless Field (football and track) and the Mesa soccer field—which have both been extensively improved in the past decade—remain the same. By late next spring, Principia will have upped its game from five to nine athletic fields—and these fields mark a huge leap forward in reaching Principia’s equity and community-engagement goals.
“The new fields give all levels and teams—boys and girls, varsity and junior varsity, Upper School and Middle School—access to top-quality fields,” Brown says. “Games and practices can be going on at the same time. . . . Each and every team can go to a place where there is a really good learning environment.”
The new fields incorporate cutting-edge technology. For example, both the new grass fields and the synthetic turf multipurpose field are all-weather fields that can be played on within minutes of an all-too-typical Midwestern downpour.
“What our baseball field has is exactly what the Royals and Cardinals have down to the kinds of grass,” Brown says. “You can be in a downpour and, yes, the grass is wet, but there’s no mud or puddling.”
The multipurpose water-turf field is also of professional caliber. Its synthetic surface above layers of sand, gravel, dirt, and drainage pipes creates a smooth, forgiving field perfectly designed for hosting field hockey, soccer, ultimate frisbee, etc. The field features two giant water “cannons” that quickly blast water on the field—soaking into the ground to promote a firm but cushioned surface that’s much safer for athletes than hard, compacted soil and grass.
Here’s a rundown of Principia School fields (circling clockwise around campus):
|BEFORE (5 fields)||AFTER (9 fields)||Opening:|
|McCandless Field (football/track)||McCandless Field (football/track)||Resurfaced 2012|
|Water-Turf field (multipurpose)||July 2021|
|Baseball Field||Marston Family Field (baseball/softball)||Spring 2022|
|Practice Field||Multipurpose grass fields (2)||Spring 2022|
|Mesa (soccer)||Mesa (soccer)||Upgraded 2013|
|Lower JV Field||Cricket Pitch (or 2 soccer fields)||Spring 2022|
|Oakes Soccer Field||Oakes Soccer Field (redone)||Spring 2022|
The new fields are not only flat and level, but they will level the playing field between boys’ and girls’ athletics programs and provide more equity between School levels. “The Middle School football team won’t have to get bumped down to the Lower School playground for practices,” Brown says.
While better serving the needs of current and future Principia students, the new fields provide other benefits such as:
- Increased positive engagement with the local community.
- Recruitment opportunities: “The fields expose people to Principia who may not have ever been on campus before,” Brown says. “‘What’s this cool place? Can I go to school here?’ Those conversations are already happening with those groups coming to play on our fields.”
- Revenue-generating opportunities to strengthen Principia’s finances for years to come
Lauren Cornthwaite (US’95), director of Aim Field Hockey in Kirkwood, Missouri, has an agreement with Principia to rent the water-turf field and is excited about the partnership. “All the top D[ivision] I programs, college teams, and the Olympics are on a water-turf field,” Cornthwaite says. “It’s faster, smoother, and allows our players to develop higher-level skills. We already had the Yale Field Hockey Team coaching staff come to Principia for a two-day clinic.”