While college sports at Bethany are taking a break this fall due to the pandemic, local high school soccer teams in the Mankato community are enjoying the opportunity to make use of Bethany’s new state-of-the-art field. Three Mankato high schools, East, Loyola, and West have played games on the new Bethany field. The Mankato East girls’ team is using the field for all of their home games during the fall 2020 season. The new field is among the first of several campus improvements that are the result of the Building Bethany fundraising campaign—a multifaceted effort designed to enhance College’s activity spaces for students, faculty, and the Mankato community.
The new turf field is considered to be one of the finest soccer facilities in the State of Minnesota.
Bethany Athletic Director Don Westphal commented, “Our soccer complex has quickly developed a reputation as one of the top fields in Minnesota. We’ve routinely heard from visiting coaches and officials who work around the Upper Midwest that the surface is among the best they’ve ever played on.”
Todd Waterbury is the Activities Director (AD) at Mankato East High School, he also talked about the quality of the Bethany facility and the opportunity for high school players to compete on the field.
“I am so very happy that we are able to work together for the Mankato high school soccer players and give them the truly wonderful experience of playing on an absolute gem of a turf field and soccer complex. As a school, we were proud to be able to host other Big 9 Conference schools in such a wonderful facility and show it off so to speak. In this crazy time, as an AD, it was very important for us to do everything we could to ensure this season was the best we could possibly make it for the student athletes. Bethany Lutheran College was a huge part in pulling that off and making a genuinely positive impact on our students in a time when it was greatly needed. For that, we are eternally grateful!”
The new soccer field was part of a list of projects associated with the fundraising campaign which also included the relocation of the baseball team to the state-of-the-art, city-owned Franklin Rogers Park just a few blocks from the Bethany campus. While moving baseball away from campus is different than past experiences for the players and coaches, the opportunity to play at another top-notch facility far outweighs the five-minute trip to the field.
Bethany’s head baseball coach, Ryan Kragh, talked about playing at the new baseball facility.
“Franklin Rogers has been a game changer for our program. It’s one of the premier facilities in the Midwest. It allows us to play in any weather condition, and we have numerous amenities including a beautiful scoreboard, a beautiful locker room with custom lockers, and player amenities. Recruits are blown away with what “The Frank” has to offer. Some have said it’s the third nicest baseball facility in the state behind Target Field and CHS Field in St. Paul. We are grateful for the opportunity to call The Frank home to Bethany baseball.”
John Landkamer (’94) is a Bethany baseball alumnus and is the AD at Mankato Loyola High School. He noted that the Loyola soccer program also appreciated the opportunity to play at the Bethany soccer facility.
“Our players, coaches, and parents loved the opportunity to play on the field. I think it is great that Bethany is open to letting high schools use their fields. Kids like to play at a college campus and it can also be a good recruiting tool for Bethany.”
And as a former Bethany Viking baseball player, Landkamer was on board with the idea to relocate the team to Franklin Rogers Park and create a new space for Bethany soccer.
“I understand the facilities decisions and think that the Bethany Soccer players and Baseball players are both practicing and competing at top-notch facilities.”
Westphal echoed similar sentiments about the value of high-quality facilities for Bethany.
“The turf soccer complex has proven to be a real blessing to our campus in so many ways. Not only has it benefited a vast number of our students, but the field has become a fantastic outreach into the greater Mankato area in terms of creating more exposure for what we have to offer potential students. The soccer field definitely expands our ability to serve our students and many individuals around Mankato and the south central Minnesota region.”
Other projects to eventually be associated with the Building Bethany campaign will include an indoor activity center with a track, a new fitness center, and finally a renovation of the Ron Younge Gymnasium in the Sports and Fitness Center. The College continues to seek donors to support the ongoing campaign.
Photos courtesy of SPX Sports