New fields meet students’ dreams of playing sports
Story by Jeannette Cruz
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
What once was a paved parking lot between Cypress Hall and Canyon Hall is becoming a new athletic field, and north of the two older residence halls, sand volleyball and basketball courts will open this spring.
In response to the continued growth, success and popularity of intramural sports programs, Grand Canyon University is expanding and improving its available space for recreation. Two new athletic fields on opposite ends of campus, The Grove fields with basketball courts and artificial-turf fields on the west and Colter Field on the east, for soccer and softball, certainly are being used.
Freshman Brooke Yost, one of nearly 8,000 GCU students participating in intramurals this year, first tried out for the women’s basketball team, but did not make the cut. So, she created her own team of nine called “The Walk-Ons.”
“We are The Walk-Ons because we tried to walk on to the GCU basketball team,” Yost said lightheartedly. “We’re really excited.”
Intramural organizers estimate the number of participants has jumped 60 percent this school year over 2014-15, when roughly 5,000 students signed up. Among the most popular sports this year are basketball, softball and Ultimate Frisbee.
This year, there are 12 intramural sports to choose from and roughly 645 proposed teams alone, said Matt Lamb, director of intramurals. The spring intramurals season, which began Monday, offers such activities as five-on-five basketball and Ultimate Frisbee on The Grove fields. Students have been playing flag football and three-on-three outdoor basketball at The Grove since last fall.
Sophomore Kara Morrow was able to continue her passion for basketball as a freshman. The growth in intramurals doesn’t surprise her.
“Intramurals create this really cool college experience because a lot of people play sports in high school and miss that team atmosphere once they leave,” Morrow said. “I think it’s incredible for us, the students, that GCU is not only challenging us to grow spiritually and academically but also physically by giving us these intramural fields and a chance to break away from the academic side.”
More students = more fields
Last year, at least 200 students were cut off from registering for intramurals due to insufficient space to accommodate teams and participation, Lamb said.
“Intramural and club sports have grown exponentially at GCU,” Lamb said. “With that growth we have been doing our best to expand our program offerings to students. This semester we’re excited to start programming on the new Colter Field because it’s really enabling us to expand on what we’ve done previously with added space.”
Colter Field, a nice, big, beautiful turf field on the northeast side of campus, covers the site of the former Mesquite apartments for GCU upperclassmen. Students started playing slow-pitch softball at Colter this week, and will start soccer soon.
An under-construction field between Canyon Hall and Cypress Hall, formerly Hegel Hall, will give students even more opportunities to participate in intramurals, Lamb said. The field will be used for slow-pitch softball and baseball, and will include backstops and bases.
Elsewhere on campus, GCU uses the sand volleyball courts between its soccer stadium and baseball field for Spikeball and the Lopes Performance Center and the Antelope Gym for indoor volleyball.
GCU is expanding its intramurals program based on students’ interests, said Zach Erdmann, intramural coordinator. “We like to keep up with the latest trends and we’re definitely always hoping for feedback from students before proceeding,” Erdmann said. “They’ve been great at getting the word out and coming to us with what they’d like to see. Flag football is probably one of the most popular sports nationwide and it’s great to see that we grew by 30 or so teams this year.”
Another aspect that will be improved by the expansion of intramural fields is the ability for more teams to play at one time.
“In the past we would only be playing one sport at a time because that is all we could accommodate with the space that we had. Now, we are able to do much more,” Lamb said.
Soccer will begin in March with more than 180 soccer teams registered and enough space for three games to be played at once.
Erdmann said he likes the idea of more fields because sports are a great way for students to stay physically active and reduce stress. Added benefits are the encouragement of academic success and retention, and making friends outside of the classroom.
“People are obviously starting to see what’s going on on campus, and they’re getting out and having fun,” he said.
Intramurals are played Mondays through Thursdays from 5 to 11 p.m.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.