New diamond in crown of UND Athletics
Memorial Village II project will enable UND Softball fans to attend home games at new, state-of-the-art field
“Since the first pitch of the program, they’ve played out at the Apollo,” Jordan Stevens, head coach of Fighting Hawks Softball, said of the program’s current home on 17th Ave S. However, as soon as fall 2024, the Fighting Hawks will have their very own field on campus.
Construction for Memorial Village II is underway across Second Ave N. from the Pollard Center. The field, which UND Athletics director Bill Chaves referred to as “yet another piece of an amazing facilities upgrade for intercollegiate athletics,” promises to be a game-changer for the team.
With 500 seats, an LED board for scores and replays and a party deck, the field represents a meaningful step forward for the University’s softball team, who are “extremely excited” and “thankful,” to everyone who helped make their new field possible, according to Stevens.
Home runs, finally at home
The field is being constructed as a part of the $54 million Memorial Village II project, a public/private partnership between UND Athletics, the Memorial Village Development Group and donors Dave and Alexa Albrecht.
This development will make a major difference for the team, according to Stevens, as they are currently traveling between practice spaces. Once their new field is ready, they’ll be able to consolidate their training to campus, cutting down the amount of time spent traveling and preparing on gamedays.
“Right now, we’re pretty spread out. We practice at Hyslop, we practice at Fritz Pollard, we practice at Memorial Stadium,” he said.
“Apollo is our home field and that’s the most desirable place, but it’s also the most inconvenient for us,” said Stevens. “We don’t have any storage out there so, even though it’s not too far away, it can take time to haul our stuff out there to play and practice.”
While Stevens said that the team has a fondness for their current home field, the diamond is shared with other organizations in Grand Forks, making gameday maintenance more intensive.
“Coach Don Stopa has been taking care of the field when we play there. So, the manual labor is going to be much less for us at our new field,” Stevens said. “Once we have our own field, it’ll be more like taking rakes to sand and rubber pellets for the turf out, compared to dragging the fields and chalking every time we play.”
Stevens said that the field’s features for players and coaches will be a major improvement for Fighting Hawks Softball. “You’re looking at really top of the line stuff here,” he asserted, all this in addition to its convenient proximity to the Pollard Center’s sports medicine and training facilities.
Stevens said that none of this would be possible without the support of the donors, who offered invaluable assistance in researching and vetting possible additions to the field.
“I think the detail that everyone including the Albrechts put into this field is just phenomenal. They left nothing on the table, every inch of that facility was thought of, from the dugouts to the equipment. I’m just amazed by the work that went into it.”
Erik Martinson, deputy athletics director, reaffirmed this by saying that “the softball field will be state of the art” adding that “our softball student-athletes will have the ability to play longer into the fall and earlier into the spring in a home they can call their own.”
Ballgames, apartments and more
The Memorial Village II project will include an adjacent building where apartments will sit atop a commercial use building, which could include anything from restaurants to stores just a short walk from Memorial Union.
Brian Larson, UND’s director of construction management, said that the land Memorial Village II is being built on is long overdue for maintenance.
“Some of the infrastructure there was past its useful life, and it was the right time to reroute some of those lines and replace some aging underground infrastructure,” Larson said, “It was really, really good timing for us.”
Larson said that in addition to having a playable field in time for the softball team’s 2024 season, they’re hoping to have the adjacent building ready for leasing in early 2025. He explained that this timeline is aided by the location’s largely untouched land.
“As far as we can tell, this area has only been a parking lot and it has very little fill. That was a welcome surprise because we didn’t have to remove a large amount of unsuitable soils that were placed there,” Larson explained.
“The native clay was fairly close to the surface,” he continued, “and that clay material is suitable to build the field on. That helped us quite a bit with the quantities of earthwork that have to happen this fall.”
Larson, singing the praises of the new field said that “it will be one of the most impressive softball facilities in the Upper Midwest,” echoing Steven’s enthusiasm for the team’s new home.
Bright future ahead for Fighting Hawks Softball
On the team’s future, Stevens said that he is optimistic that the new stadium will be a boon for Fighting Hawk’s Softball, saying that the field has the potential to attract new fans and recruits.
“We’ve been able to chat about it with some potential recruits. Recruits are used to being promised a lot but, now that earth is moving out there, we’re able to show them that it’s actually happening. That makes a world of difference.”
Stevens, who has spent nearly a decade coaching the Fighting Hawks team to their program record-breaking season in 2020, says that he is thankful to those who are making the team’s future field possible.
“There are a lot of hands that got this done and without them all working together it would never have happened. For us to be able to say that this is potentially our last season at Apollo, is really exciting. It’s great.”