In its continued efforts to improve and expand the student-experience, Limestone University has unveiled plans to bring Saints football games to campus, while also returning its softball program home with a brand-new facility.
During the University’s Board of Trustees meeting last week, Limestone President Dr. Darrell Parker outlined the large-scale plans that will touch every athletic team and impact all students. In addition to football and softball coming to campus, preparations are also in the works to design a new sports performance center and renovate the Timken Center.
Fundraising for the new and improved facilities is already underway, and Parker said that the campaign goal and other details for each element of the plan will be announced in the weeks ahead.
He emphasized that the new projects will have implications far beyond Limestone athletics. The wellness component will positively impact student health needs. While the plans will have a direct effect on student-athlete recruitment, they also will improve retention among the entire student body. Increased enrollment and retention will further enhance the University’s fiscal strength, continuing to ensure Limestone students have opportunities to reach their educational goals. An exciting game-day environment will draw the community of Gaffney onto campus.
Adding more seating at Saints Field will also enable Limestone to move its outdoor graduation ceremonies back on campus. Since May of 2020, the University has been holding its outdoor commencements at Gaffney High School’s stadium.
Beginning with the inception of the program in 2014, Limestone’s football program has called The Reservation stadium at Gaffney High its home. Future games, starting this fall, will be played on campus at Saints Field, located just off Leadmine Street. Saints Field currently hosts home contests for Limestone lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey.
Limestone’s softball team last played on campus in 2014. The former softball field, situated next to the Saints’ baseball stadium, was removed as part Limestone’s plan to develop a new welcome center for its outdoor athletic facilities. That project led to the construction of Shannon Hamrick Park and the new amenities that came with the creation of the Bob Prevatte Athletic Complex. Since then, the University’s softball team has played its home games at Babe Ruth Field located on Twin Lakes Road in Gaffney. Softball is expected to open is 2023 season next spring at its new on-campus location.
“Bringing football to campus and returning softball home are both part of our plans to enrich the student-experience at Limestone,” Parker explained. “Those two teams deserve places to call their own. That will also bring some added excitement as we provide our students with more opportunities to engage and interact on campus. We will be forever grateful to the Cherokee County School District for allowing us the use of The Reservation, which made it possible for Limestone to start its football program in a state-of-the-art stadium. We also appreciate the Cherokee County Recreation District for providing a temporary home for our softball team for many years.
“We are now ready to undertake new eras for football and softball, while making other improvements to our campus to benefit our student body,” he added. “Given the importance of our highly-successful athletics program, we must continue to address facility needs to ensure that our student-athletes have the amenities needed to succeed and flourish.”
Preliminary designs place the new softball facility at a grass field located adjacent to the Timken Center that hosts home games and matches for Limestone basketball, volleyball, wrestling, and acrobatics & tumbling. The facility also contains practice facilities for Saints cheerleading and dance team as well as academic programs in physical education and recreation facilities.
There are also plans to renovate the Timken Center and expand locker rooms for indoor sports. Along with that construction will be an architectural facelift to the exterior of the Timken Center. The addition of a softball complex and the renovation of the Timken Center will be designed to accommodate physical education activities, intramural events, marching band practices, and other indoor and outdoor pursuits for the student body.
The first phase of plans at Saints Field includes increasing the current seating to accommodate 2,500 fans, along with new restroom and concessions areas. Temporary seating will be utilized for the 2022 season as fundraising efforts ramp up to construct permanent facilities.
Football lines will be painted on the artificial turf and goal posts will be added to the field prior to this fall, along with the addition of a new scoreboard.
“Having football on our campus will make the game-day experience more engaging for our students,” Parker said. “This on-campus stadium will provide our students, fans, alumni, and Cherokee County with an unrivaled game-day feel. We are excited about all the festivities and new traditions that we can create around our home football games. This will enrich Limestone’s growing profile as a leader in athletics, academics, and student life. At the same time, we expect our economic impact on the local community to grow exponentially.”
After opening the season with three consecutive road games, Limestone’s first home football game of the 2022 campaign will coincide with Homecoming on Saturday, Sept. 24, as the Saints welcome University of Virginia-Wise for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Limestone will also host home games on October 15 against Wingate University, November 5 versus Barton College, and November 12 as Emory & Henry College comes to Gaffney. However, the week 11 contest against Emory & Henry could be changed should Limestone win the Piedmont Division and qualify for the South Atlantic Conference Championship Game slated for November 12.
The proposed sports performance center, to be built behind one of the end zones at Saints Field, will include a strength and conditioning area large enough to accommodate Limestone’s 25 teams and 700-plus student-athletes.
That new facility will enable the current Walt Griffin Physical Education Center – which now provides strength and conditioning space for student-athletes – to be repurposed for academic and student-life enhancements, including a health and wellness area for the entire student body.
“The ongoing support from our generous donors has created the momentum and foundation for Limestone to move forward with this ambitious and achievable fundraising campaign,” Parker noted. “From our preliminary planning, we know that there are numerous donors who will welcome the opportunity to get involved in this fundraising campaign. We will soon be announcing various ways that everyone, at all levels of support, can help make our student-experience enhancement plans a reality.”
Aerial view of Saints Field (upper field with set of blue bleachers), Jerry Richardson Field (below Saints Field), Clary Family Football Practice Field (left of Saints Field), and Limestone’s Founders FCU Baseball Stadium. The Limestone football team will call Saints Field its new home starting this fall. (Photo provided by Limestone University)