|A sporting success
By Lisa Strandberg
The new Donald J. Schneider Stadium is a winning reality all around.
| Enjoy images and audio that capture the atmosphere of the first season at the new outdoor athletic complex. >>MORE
Like many members of the St. Norbert community, Kathy (Klister) Svabek ’81 knew for months where she’d be on the first Saturday in September. The former Green Knight volleyball, basketball and track athlete wasn’t going to miss this fall’s premier football game at the new Donald J. Schneider Stadium, even though she had to drive from Chicago to attend.
Her trip was worth it. The stadium itself is beautiful, she says, and so was the ceremony that opened the much-anticipated facility.
“It’s been the missing link for St. Norbert for so long,” says Svabek, who helped raise funds to build the stadium.
Putting that link in place strengthens the college beyond its athletic department. To be sure, athletes stand to benefit from the facility, but so does the whole St. Norbert community.
A boon for athletics
|The new stadium is named for Don Schneider ’57, who, with his wife Pat, provided the lead gift of $4 million for the $12 million project. Schneider is the retired CEO of Schneider National Inc. Fred Wakeman ’50 and his wife Carol added a $1 million gift, and the entry plaza is named for them. The playing field within the stadium is named in honor of Howard “Chick” Kolstad, St. Norbert football coach from 1960 to 1978. Kolstad had 12 winning seasons out of 19 and two others at .500.
Football co-captain Kyle Ripley ’11 knows better than most that the excitement around Schneider Stadium extends far beyond the campus. “My family and friends have been asking about the new stadium, along with my chiropractor, dentist, co-workers and more,” he says.
They’re interested for good reason, he adds: “Schneider Stadium will compete as one of the top Division III stadiums in the nation.”
The facility’s artificial surface has football and soccer players alike excited for faster-paced, more competitive games.
“In the past, we’ve had to play through mud and flooded fields,” says women’s soccer co-captain Caitlin Carrigan ’11. “Lots of teams in the [Midwest Conference] have turf fields, and the fact that we have one now will make the playing field more level.”
No one is more excited about the stadium than the track team, which has produced several national champions despite its lack of a home track. As Svabek puts it, “We went from no track to state of the art.”
Men’s and women’s track coach Don Augustine says, “We have always had very dedicated athletes who were able to excel without great facilities. Now that we have those facilities, we’re hoping to reach even greater heights.”
This year’s recruiting successes suggest Augustine will realize his hopes. Don Maslinski ’63 (College Advancement), who spearheaded fundraising for the stadium, says: “Last year we had 51 kids involved in men’s and women’s track. This year [Augustine] brought in 50 freshmen. He more than doubled the size of his team.”
Other sports also have seen an impact on recruiting. “The numbers will be there, and they’re getting there pretty quickly,” says director of athletics Tim Bald.
“We’ve got eight kids from Florida this year, and we’ve never had more than four in one year,” head football coach Jim Purtill says. During spring tours of the stadium under construction, Purtill adds: “One father must have asked our coach 10 times in one day, ‘Are you sure it’s going to be ready by fall?’”
“[Recruiting] conversations used to go: ‘We can’t wait until we start building the stadium. It’s going to be pretty awesome,’” says Dennis Detrie, head coach of women’s soccer. “Now they go, ‘Let’s go take a look at where you would be playing next year.’”
A boost for fans
As every real estate agent knows, location is a primary selling point, and Schneider Stadium’s proximity to campus – it’s on Lost Dauphin Road – should tempt many more fans to attend athletic events. As Purtill points out, student fans will no longer have to cross the “Great Divide” of the Fox River to their stadium.
“Even though Minahan wasn’t that far away, it never really felt like part of the campus. Now [Schneider] does,” Detrie says.
That connection reaches beyond campus boundaries, according to head cheerleading coach Cheryl Reed. The new stadium “will further solidify the campus and community relationship,” she says.
In addition to drawing more fans, the stadium accommodates its guests more comfortably with beautiful grounds, a public pavilion and an on-site prayer labyrinth. Plus it eliminates the need for any spectators to bring their own seats.
“We’ve never had stadium seating before [for soccer],only lawn chairs,” Carrigan says. “Fans can see the whole field and catch every glimpse of the action.”
Fans also can become part of the action more easily in the facility. “Schneider Stadium brings a new excitement to the stands,” says cheerleader Kathleen McKitrick ’11.
“We have different access to the crowd, allowing us to engage them more,” Reed adds. “We’re excited about starting some new traditions in the stadium.”
A bright future for the college
The new facility will not only attract more student-athletes to St. Norbert; it will attract more students, period. “Schneider Stadium gives the campus another venue to demonstrate Green Knight school spirit,” says Ed Lamm (Admissions).
That spirit was part of what drew Carrigan to St. Norbert from the University of St. Thomas halfway through her freshman year. “What I see the school doing now – the remodeling, the new stadium, future plans to extend the science hall – all of these things make this college more appealing to incoming students,” she says.
As Schneider Stadium joins donor-supported facilities like the Mulva Library and the new student services center in Todd Wehr Hall, it is indeed a link that extends the reach of the college as a whole, Maslinski says. “All of that will enhance enrollment and make it easier to recruit, whether you’re an athlete or not.”
As McKitrick puts it: “A stadium isn’t built to be played in just by a team. It is built to strengthen the community behind the team and the school that the team represents.”
In her mind, Schneider Stadium and other recent projects have definitely accomplished that purpose. “When I first visited St. Norbert, I thought it was a campus out of a movie. It is extremely beautiful and everything I could hope my college would look like,” she says.
“The new facilities have enhanced the campus and are starting to help us get the nationwide recognition that we deserve.”