Work on the centerpiece of the multi-year renovation project at Reddan Soccer Park in Verona is underway, with construction of the Irwin A. & Robert D. Goodman Pitch having started last month.
The installation of the 99,000-square-foot FieldTurf surface is being funded by a $663,000 donation from the Irwin A. & Robert D. Goodman Foundation and a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
The stadium is scheduled to be completed in early September, though that depends on the weather – and there were heavy rains in the area just after the project started. The UW Health Sports Medicine Pavilion, a 1,000-square foot dedicated facility for athletic trainers, also will be erected this summer alongside the stadium.
"There will be a lot of work this summer that we'll have to keep our eye on, but we're very, very excited, as I know many participants of soccer in this area are, too," Madison Area Youth Soccer Association executive director Chris Lay said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
MAYSA operates Reddan, a 60-acre park that opened in 1997 on land leased from Dane County Parks. The facility plays host to more than 700 practices, 1,200 league matches and eight major tournaments each year, bringing more than 200,000 visitors and $3 million to the local economy, according to the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It's a wonderful partnership the County has with MAYSA," said Tom Thoresen, a member of the Dane County Parks Commission. "And this is just a wonderful facility, particularly in light of how good it is for adults and youth alike."
The stadium is exactly the type of project that appealed to the late Goodman brothers, longtime Madison jewelers and philanthropists, and the foundation that bears their name.
"One of their focus areas when they were alive and the Foundation is trying to continue is public recreation and related facilities," said E.G. Schramka, the executive director and vice president of the Goodman Foundation. "This is a significant stadium, there isn't one like it around here. It will be a destination, it will get significant use and that's what we look for: Something that's going to be a destination, that's going to stand out. And to be associated with MAYSA, which is a well-run organization, that's just the icing on the cake."
Schramka stressed that he must leave his personal opinions about potential projects on the sideline when it comes to deciding which projects the Foundation will fund and make decisions based on what the Goodmans would have wanted.
But he's part of Wisconsin soccer history, as he played on the Milwaukee Marquette team coached by the legendary Bob Gansler that won the inaugural Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association title in 1974 – that was the first organized high school tournament in the state, as the first WIAA tournament wasn't held until 1982.
And Schramka's daughter, Beth, played soccer for Madison Edgewood, one of two area high schools that will call Goodman Pitch home. Verona High School, which is just down the road from Reddan, also will play its boys and girls home matches at the new stadium.
"We're working out the final details of making that a reality, but yeah, we're very excited," Crusaders boys and girls coach Chris Martinelli said. "To have a single place to call home for all of the teams in our program will be major."
Over the years, Edgewood teams have trained and played home matches at the high school, Warner Park, Breese Stevens Field, Holy Name Seminary, Olin Park, Rennebohm Park and Middleton's Breitenbach Stadium.
"So to have one place, I think more than just a place to call home for our games, it will be a place to call home just for soccer for our school, which is important," Martinelli said.
Magic SC, Regent SC and the Madison 56ers also will have significant access to Goodman Pitch.
"Those are some of the clubs that use this most frequently and we've worked closely with them over the last several years," Lay said of the stadium, which already had bleacher seating for approximately 500 and had lights installed last year. "We have so many soccer patrons that we know that they're going to concentrate a lot of play onto these fields. There will be a lot of demand once this finished."
Lay pointed out that the FieldTurf surface will be a benefit for several reasons.
First of all, it's durable and consistent and can be played on in pretty much any weather condition. "Living in Wisconsin, you are vulnerable to weather. This field will be far less vulnerable to weather," he said.
Also, the artificial surface can accommodate more play than a grass field. By moving some practices and games to the Goodman Pitch, the Reddan staff will be able to allow other fields the rest needed to improve those natural playing surfaces.
"We can't expand our footprint, but we can have more playable hours," Lay said, being sure to note that, "We will never run it 24 hours a day – I want the neighbors to know that."
The UW Health Sports Medicine Pavilion, funded by a 10-year, $250,000 sponsorship agreement with UW Health Sports Medicine, is scheduled to be completed about a week after Goodman Pitch, Lay said. UW Health athletic trainers will staff the facility during big tournaments and other events at the park; an exact staffing plan is still being developed.
After the Goodman Pitch and UW Health Sports Medicine Pavilion are completed, the next focal point in the Reddan renovation plan will be to continue to improve the fields in the north section of the park – fields 6 through 12.
"I've done sports and athletic fields for 35 years," said Mike Schmeltzer, senior landscape architect for JSD Professional Services – the Verona company did the master planning and redevelopment plans for the park's renovation. "Sometimes there's a little more hubbub over some than there is over others. But I've got a special interest in this one, I'm really excited about this."