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Turning on the lights for Skyhawk Athletics

Turning on the lights for Skyhawk Athletics

Indoor and outdoor renovations kick into high gear at Whalen Gymnasium, Dirks Field

At Fort Lewis College, illumination happens beyond the books and classroom walls; beginning in summer 2022, campus will also get a little brighter with a shiny gym floor, alfresco flood lights, and more.

Illustration of gym floor with skyhawk logo in center and mountain graphic below.
Whalen Gymnasiumm incorporates the majestic La Plata Mountains and FLC brand.

Over the last two years, campus has excitedly watched the construction of the new Health Sciences Center, which is anticipated to open in Spring 2023. Since the HSC will be a cutting-edge academic research and teaching facility, Whalen Gymnasium is elevating its legendary appeal. With refreshed design elements from a new gym floor, which was completed in May 2022, to a lobby makeover, the revamped space will offer exterior fire pits and seating, a walk-up ticket window, touchscreen Hall of Fame display, and other modern details that will help take the Skyhawk Athletics experience to the next level.

Dirks Field is also undergoing a series of upgrades that will wrap up this summer. Thanks to a generous donation, lights can shine over the Dirks Field soccer pitch. The energy-efficient bulbs can be automatically controlled from a smartphone while complying with Durango night-sky regulations.

“We have such a large fan following for our soccer programs that night games will allow for more flexibility in scheduling,” said Eric Crist, assistant director of Athletics. “We hope to avoid scheduling mid-day and attract more fans and alumni to games in the evening hours.”

A green Dirks soccer field with the backdrop of the La Plata Mountains.
Dirks Field will fire up the new stadium lights for the first time on August 20, 2022 for the annual alumni game.

Besides night games, the addition of lights allows the field to accommodate other community gatherings, from movie nights to high school soccer games.

“Having hosted three national championships, Dirks is a very special field,” Crist said. “We’re excited to host more community events on the mesa.”

Adjacent to Dirks Field, a turfed soccer arena is slated to be built. With four-foot walls and six feet of netting, the space will feel like an indoor arena but without a roof. Snow is easier to remove from turf than from natural grass, so players can practice outside during colder months.

“This type of project is at the heart of a grassroots movement not just here in the United States but all over the world,” said Aaron Champenoy, interim director of Athletics. “These soccer arenas, or ‘cages,’ as many call them, have been shown to be great community gathering places for young people to come and develop their skills in a very natural and organic way. We couldn’t be happier to pair this project with the lighting project to give our community another resource to support our young people.”

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