‘Our athletes deserved better’: WKU breaks ground on soccer, softball complex

Members+of+both+WKUs+soccer+and+softball+teams+celebrate+during+the+ground+breaking+event+for+the+programs+sports+complex+on+Aug.+30%2C+2022.

Jared Winter / College Heights Herald

Members of both WKU’s soccer and softball teams celebrate during the ground breaking event for the programs’ sports complex on Aug. 30, 2022.

Adi Schanie, Sports reporter

Ground was officially broken Tuesday afternoon for WKU’s new indoor sports complex for the university’s soccer and softball programs. 

The new home for the two programs will feature locker rooms, offices and training areas. 

The estimated cost of the facility is roughly $3 million, the majority of the funds coming from Conference USA exit fees paid by schools vacating the conference. 

The facility will be located between the soccer and softball stadiums on Creason Street and is expected to be completed by next summer. 

“They’ve never had a home in close proximity to where they play,” WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart said. “Our soccer team currently dresses in Houchens-Smith Stadium. Our softball team currently dresses in Diddle Arena. That’s not right. It needs to change, and I’m proud to say it now will.” 

WKU President Timothy Caboni said he realized this situation needed to change during last season’s soccer senior night.

“It was my first senior night for the soccer program. It was remarkable for me to see the energy and the excitement on the field, except for one thing,” Caboni said. “As I watched our student athletes prepare for the ceremony, I watched them do so right over there in the only facility available to them – the bench areas [for] our soccer players. I knew then that our athletes deserved better.”

The facility comes at a deserving time for both clubs. The softball program has been to three NCAA tournaments. Last season, WKU defeated No. 5 Alabama at home in front of the largest crowd in program history.

The soccer program also has a successful track record, winning three conference championships in school history. Last season, WKU Soccer defeated both Vanderbilt and Louisville, marking the second consecutive year WKU had defeated Louisville in soccer.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

“Everyone gets an equal opportunity,” WKU Softball senior TJ Webster said about the importance of Title IX. “No matter the gender or race, no matter what, everybody deserves an opportunity.”

WKU Softball head coach Amy Tudor reflected on how far the facilities have come since her time playing on WKU’s very first softball team. 

“I can remember we had to practice at Basil Griffin Park,” Tudor said. “We were so excited just to be on the team, going over and being able to represent WKU.”

WKU Soccer senior Sydney Ernst said she expects the new facility to have a tremendous impact on recruiting.

“We already have a great field, great atmosphere and everything – and now putting this facility on top of it, it’s just going to bring in so many more recruits,” Ernst said.

“This is a game changer for our program. It’s a game changer for the current student athletes behind us both in softball and soccer,” WKU Soccer head coach Jason Neidell said. “It’s a game changer for the future student athletes who will come here, not only because of the WKU spirit, but because of the amenities and facilities that we provide.” 

Sports reporter Adi Schanie can be reached at [email protected]