WMU Begins Practice in Seelye Facility

The Donald "J" Seelye Athletic Center, which began construction in the winter of 2001, officially opened its doors to Western Michigan University athletic teams Jan. 13. Members of the women's soccer team were the first team to use the artificial turf bay, taking to the field at 7:00 a.m.

They were followed by a group of men's soccer players (9-11 a.m.); the baseball (1:00-3:30 p.m.) and softball (3:30-6:00 p.m.) squads practice this afternoon. WMU football players will begin voluntary workouts (6:00-7:00 p.m.) while the women's golf team is scheduled to begin practices in late January.

The $25 million facility is scheduled for completion this April, at which time a dedication ceremony will be held along with an open house for the public. Construction crews are still working on all three levels adjoining the turf bay area.

"I'm really excited to get a chance to get on the turf," said Haines. "The ability to train on a larger surface in wide open space will definitely benefit our program." He said the Broncos have already scheduled a nine-on-nine tournament for February.

For Fred Decker's baseball team, the Seelye Center offers a larger practice area than previously available at the Student Recreation Center. The Broncos have six batting cages available (as opposed to two) and have the ability to conduct defensive drills such as cutoffs and relays that were not possible before.

"The players who have been inside to see the facility are really excited," he said. "The surface is more realistic to what we will play on when we go outdoors."

Bronco athletic squads will train on an 80x60-yard field covered with AstroPlay synthetic turf. AstroPlay is produced by Southwest Recreational Industries, Inc. — the same company which installed NeXturf at Waldo Stadium.

"The turf is a step up from asphalt. It's the next best thing to being on our own field," said softball coach Kathy Leitke. "We feel very fortunate that the University and community have been supportive in this endeavor — it will have a direct impact on our program."

Men's soccer coach Chris Karwoski agrees. His team, previously confined to the wood floors and brick walls of Oakland Gymnasium, now has 50,000 square feet at their disposal at the turf bay. "We're training in one of the top facilities in the country, it gives a touch of professionalism and shows the players that the school really cares about the program."

The Seelye Center also gives the women's golf team a place to call home. Cindy Trout's team routinely took a 20-minute trek to Schoolcraft to use the dome facility there. "The Seelye is right here on campus, and we will have our own locker rooms. It's something to be really proud of and will help with our recruiting," said Trout.

Media wishing to observe the first workouts in the Seelye Center should contact the WMU Athletic Media Relations Office at (269) 387-4138.

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