Renovations underway at Thresher Stadium

21 July 2018

Back in 2005, Bethel College completed one of its most ambitious projects on behalf of its athletic department — the 3,000-seat Joe W. Goering Field at Thresher Stadium.

Thirteen years later, under athletic director Tony Hoops, the facility is undergoing a face lift that includes a new artificial turf, a new drainage system, a new scoreboard and a new video board.

At the conclusion of the upcoming school year, a new track surface will be installed.

“We’ve gotten more out of it than what you would expect,” Hoops said. “The last couple of years, the turf has been a little hard. They looked at it and said we got a good lifespan out of it. What we wanted to get out of this was one, we needed new turf; two, the drainage in that was not meeting our expectations — there was too much flooding on the sidelines and it wasn’t draining as fast as we would like. Had we not had any drainage issues, the new turf would be down right now. The sub-base was very hard and compact. They will take that off and replace it with one where the water will permeate better.”

Part of the improvements to the drainage system involves replacing eight-inch pipes that went into six-inch pipes with 10-inch pipes that go into 12-inch pipes.

Hoops said the cost of the renovations have been paid for by private alumni donations. The new scoreboard and video board will be paid for by advertising.

″(The Bethel) Development (Office) has done most of the legwork for that,” Hoops said. “Eric Schrag and Brad Schmidt have made this a reality for us.”

Hoops is hoping to have the renovations done for the start of the fall sports seasons. The men’s soccer team has its hope opener Aug. 28 against John Brown University, followed by the women’s soccer team Aug. 31 against Bacone College and the football team Sept. 1 against Ottawa University.

“This rain has put us a little bit behind, but our goal is to have it done by Aug. 11, which is when students report for fall athletics,” Hoops said. “Assuming we don’t have any two- or three-inch rain storms, we should make it. If we don’t have any more storms, we’ll be done with all the piping done by the end of the week. If the weather holds out, the crews will start laying the new turf next week.”

The new video board will allow for advertisements, replays, graphic features and highlight clips to be shown during games.

The video board will be eight-feet tall by 10-feet wide. Bethel will be the second school in the conference with a video board at the stadium. The other is at conference newcomer Avila.

“We control how much we want to use it,” Hoops said. “It be a nice little feature there. Our old scoreboard is a little faded. The new scoreboard will have Wifi capabilities. We’ll have new play clocks too. That was the biggest reason I wanted a new scoreboard because it gave us a chance to fix the play clocks.”

Hoops said the scoreboard purchase includes new scoreboards for Thresher Gym.

Hoops said the main benefits of the stadium improvements will include safety, recruiting and improved game-day environment.

“It will make our stadium one of the premier stadiums in the conference again,” Hoops said.

Shortly after Bethel’s stadium was completed, the football team won back-to-back conference titles (2006 and 2007).

Bethel was the second school in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference with an artificial turf stadium. Shortly after completion of the facility, every school in the conference either built a new stadium or made significant upgrades to its facility. The University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth built two stadiums in that time.

“That’s how college athletics works,” Hoops said. “Whether it’s KCAC or (NCAA) Division I. It’s an arms race. Everybody is trying to match what everyone else is trying to do. Facilities help, but relationships matter the most. We’re very confident in the coaching staffs we have. The recruiting those coaches do will continue to build our programs and give us the bright future we expect to have.”

In addition to Bethel events, Thresher Stadium has hosted three high school girls’ and a high school boys’ state soccer final four. It also hosts several high school track meets a year, including some regional and league championships. The stadium also has played host to some high school football games, most notably a series of games between Class 2-1A powers LaCrosse and Olpe during the Fall Fest weekend.

Hoops hopes to be able to expand those offerings.

Hoops is just finishing his first full year as athletic director. He stepped down as men’s basketball coach at the end of last season to concentrate his efforts full time as AD.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” Hoops said. “There’s been a lot going on. People have asked me if things have slowed down a bit, but they really haven’t. I do feel like I’m able to go home at the end of the day and have done something for Bethel athletics that I wanted to get done. I’ll miss basketball when the season starts, but I’m excited.”

Hoops said he’s hired eight new head coaches since taking the job.

He said his main goal is to create sustainability among the schools’ 15 programs.

“I want to make sure our individuals are having a great experience,” Hoops said. “Not only are our coaches having a great experience, but that goes down to our student athletes. It seems very simple, but if you have coaches happy with what they are doing, and are building something positive, that’s going to filter down to our student athletes. My second goal is to create an expectation of excellence on the field. That’s not just in terms of wins and losses, but will be competitive on a daily basis. We have the staff to do that.”

Hoops said the school has increased recognition this year in terms of athletes’ academic achievement. Hoops said grade-point-averages are up.

The men’s golf team was named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Champion of Character for the school year just ended. It was the first time Bethel earned the national award for a team.

“It’s been very positive from that direction,” Hoops said. “Our post-season awards have increased and that’s two-fold — one, we have student-athletes that are very deserving of it and doing great things in competition and in the classroom. We’re excited about the honors they have been getting. The addition of (full-time) sports information director Josh Booth, we’re much more competitive for awards than what we’ve been before. He’s a valuable source at the national level. When we’re nominating kids, we have an individual promoting those kids at a much better rate than we were before.”

In recent years, a number of schools in the KCAC have added new sports — most commonly lacrosse, competitive dance and cheer and men’s and women’s wrestling. Several schools also have added swimming and bowling teams in recent years.

Bethel’s last expansion was adding competitive cheer in 2014. That program went on to win a pair of conference titles and qualify for the NAIA national championships.

Hoops is not ruling out future expansion, but said it will be done in a careful manner.

“You can look at expansion in a couple of ways,” Hoops said. “A lot of schools in the NAIA are expanding because it increases student numbers on campus. It’s not a bad thing. My thing is I don’t want to look at expansion until we feel like we have sustained a culture on campus that allows all of our programs to be successful. It does us no good to create new programs if our current programs can’t be self-sufficient in what we are trying to do. We’re close to that.”

He cited the success of the softball team as a model to expand. It took the program seven seasons to go from scratch to be able to challenge the top teams in the conference.

Bethel is currently the only school in the conference without a baseball program.

Hoops said it would be difficult to add any additional indoor programs because of lack of gym space. He said there is currently a capital campaign to fund a new wellness center that would have at lease one new gym.

The KCAC also has expanded in recent years to 13, adding three schools — York, Oklahoma Wesleyan and Avila. Several sport-specific associate members also have joined the conference.

“I’ll tell you what our conference commissioner Scott Crawford said recently, and that’s we’re stable from where we’re at,” Hoops said. “We like the conference make-up. We’ve been able to add three schools. We’ve gone north to York. We’ve gone south to Oklahoma Wesleyan. We’ve been able to expand into the Kansas City market with Avila. At this time, we’re stable, but Crawford said we’re open to schools interested in the conference, but it’s got to be right for us. ... We might be adding, but not just to add.”

Hoops said he intends to expand more community involvement such as a Newton Community Day for local civic organizations.

“From where we were at a year ago and where we’re at now, it gives me a lot of excitement about the future of Bethel College athletics,” Hoops said. “That is not because of anything I’ve done. It has a lot to do with what other people have invested into it. President John Goering and I have daily conversations about athletics and how that impacts the academic world. For Bethel athletics to be successful, we have to be on the same page as the administration, the rest of our coaches, the students and the academic world.”