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Wade King Recreation Center’s field is top priority for renovation

The deteriorating field poses safety hazards to club sports and other users

The surface of Wade King Field is uneven and multiple field lines are torn up at Western Washington University on Feb. 9, 2024. A torn-up field affects injury potential and quality of practice and training. // Photo by Ayden Sweat

After 20 years of use, the Wade King Recreation Center turf field at Western Washington University has developed uneven turf distribution, abrasions and divots across its surface, posing injury risks.

Sports clubs primarily use the field, including men’s and women’s lacrosse and ultimate frisbee, varsity track and field and intramural sports.

Students from the lacrosse teams, including Marissa Steward, a second-year environmental science student, said sections of the turf field are torn to shreds or removed entirely, which has obstructed field lines for all sports. 

“My club obviously doesn't take priority over anybody else's but it does make me feel less important,” Steward said. 

According to Steward, the field has garnered the title “turf monster” from club sports. Although there have been no reported injuries, the state of the field is poor enough to be at the top of Western’s priority list. 

To resolve an issue like this it would take an entirely new field, said Caitlin Sommers, the assistant director for campus recreation.

“It’s not easy to replace a section… We have to replace the whole thing,” said Sommer, who oversees the sports clubs program and intramural sports. Outside specialists would be needed for the renovation, and it will have to be done over the summer for dry, consistent weather.

The latest change Wade King Field received was last year. To address uneven illumination and dark patches, it was equipped with new LED floodlights, allowing the field to be fully lit throughout the day.

Civic Stadium, located in Bellingham’s Puget neighborhood, is used for home games, while Wade King Field functions as a practice and conditioning facility. Harrington Field, positioned on the south end of campus, is not suited for lacrosse due to its inadequate field lines. Harrington’s usage is primarily dedicated to varsity soccer so teams try to limit wear and tear on the field.

“In [Civic Stadium] there's more amenities,” Sommers said. “So if we're able to provide that for the time being until we're able to replace the field and replace the scoreboard, then it's just a better option for them.”

Civic Stadium received resurfacing and returfing in 2006 and has received smaller subsequent renovations since. It has covered seating for 4,000 spectators and lights for all-day use

Wade King Field currently does not have seating, although this may change in the future, allowing the field to be expanded beyond practice use.

“When we have a recommendation of a project, it's normally a two-year cycle to get funded and a four-year cycle to actually complete the work,” said Greg Hough, director of facilities asset management.

In Western’s 2023-33 Capital Plan, “Practice Field Running Surface, Field Synthetic Turf, and Lighting Replacement,” is listed under the Preservation Minor Works List.

Minor Works projects are smaller-scale proposals compared to larger multi-million-dollar Capital Plans, which include new buildings and extensive renovations for all buildings on campus.

The renovations are still in the planning process. However, Sommers said that if the conditions are right, she would like to see the field renovated within the next two years.

Ayden Sweat

Ayden Sweat (he/him) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a third-year student and a Visual Journalism pre-major with an interest in photojournalism and layout design. In his free time, he frequents the outdoors, hosts a radio show at KUGS-FM, and collects a variety of physical media. Ayden can be reached at

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