Construction Starts on Near East Fields on May 28

A photo of a computer rendering of the renovated Near East Fields on campus at UW-Madison. Shown is the entrance, with a gated fence and entrance with people walking past.

Near East Fields is the fourth and final project of the Rec Well master plan and the second of two turf field projects.

Rec Well will begin construction on Near East Fields, located on the Lakeshore side of campus next to Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center and in front of Dejope Residence Hall, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Construction is anticipated to be completed in Spring 2025.

“The Near East Fields project stands as a pivotal milestone, epitomizing the realization of our comprehensive Rec Well master plan,” Aaron Hobson, executive director of Rec Well, said. “Its future completion heralds a new era of enhanced student experiences, fostering community, wellbeing, and holistic growth.”

This project includes converting a four-acre natural grass field into a large artificial turf complex for sports and recreation allowing for longer seasons, fewer games canceled, and more chances for Badgers to get outside and play. It will include four intramural-level soccer fields and allow for full-sized lacrosse and field hockey as well, lighting, perimeter fencing, scoreboards, landscaping, bicycle and moped parking, a PA system, and a 3,000 sq. ft building with space for an Athletic Training room, four bathrooms, and storage space for maintenance and sports equipment.

“Students will enjoy the high-quality turf and enhanced lighting, as they toss a frisbee with friends, compete for an intramural sports championship T-shirt, or practice with their sport club,” says Erik Jaeke, director of member engagement of Rec Well. “The support building will enhance student services and wellbeing in the Lakeshore area, and we’re so excited to see its impact.”

Environmentally conscious design was used in the creation of this project. The field will feature LED lighting, improving visibility and reducing glare on the field while saving up to 65% on energy consumption. The synthetic turf itself features a shock-absorbing pad and eco-fill infill. Eco-fill is 95% recyclable and free of heavy metals, amine aromatics, and PAHs (unlike typical crushed rubber). It is also 49% denser than traditional infill, which reduces granule migration and provides a more uniform and stable field for improved athletic performances reducing injuries. In addition, a regional underground stormwater management system, or detention chamber, will be placed under the field to collect sediment from a 32-acre watershed on campus.  This helps filter out sediment and cool the water before being released to the environment through control structures.

 Near East Fields will become the home for lacrosse, field hockey, ultimate frisbee, and small sided soccer. This will allow Near West Fields to host more opportunities for flag football along with softball, baseball, and soccer.

“I look forward to this much-needed addition to campus, as it will also open up more opportunities for club sports to practice and hold sports events,” says Gabriela Stark-Torrentera, captain of women’s ultimate frisbee sport club. “With turf space already limited on campus, more fields will allow for more practice times and increased availability.”

Parisi will lead the construction of Near East Fields with Smithgroup as the architect on the project. The project is budgeted for slightly over $11 million and is funded by gifts and grants received by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. No student-segregated fee dollars were used on this project. The construction will have no impact on programming as adjustments were made in the play schedule to accommodate this in the 24’-25’ academic year. In addition, with its proximity to the Lakeshore residence halls, Rec Well has worked closely with University Housing to set an appropriate construction schedule that does not impact residence hall move-in, finals periods, early mornings, or late evenings.

The Rec Well master plan passed in March 2014 with a record-breaking 87 percent of students voting in favor of the project. This included the construction of two new buildings, the first being the Nicholas

Recreation Center (completed in 2020) and the second was Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center (completed in 2023), and two outdoor fields, Near West Fields (completed in 2017) and Near East Fields (estimated completion in Spring 2025).