Single Plays Leads To $1.4 Million Stadium Renovation
When you are a successful Division III football program, you end up hosting a lot of early-round playoff games. In 2000, Linfield College (McMinnville, Ore.) led a second-round playoff game against Central College (Iowa), 17-14, in overtime.
With the game being played in Oregon during November, rainy, wet conditions had turned parts of the field into a giant mud bath. What transpired has been called by some the “Miracle In The Mud,” but that name certainly did not come from anyone associated with Linfield.Central’s kicker came on to attempt a 38-yard field goal in an effort to tie the game and force a second overtime. The kicker slipped, booted the ball into the linemen and Linfield seemingly had won the game. As Wildcat players left the sideline to go onto the field to celebrate, the play hadn’t been whistled dead.
Central’s center had the ball, handed it to the fullback, who emerged from the scrum and took the ball into the end zone. The touchdown counted and Central won, 20-17.
When asked why Linfield moved to renovate its football stadium, athletic director Scott Carnahan offered a sarcastic laugh, then explained: “In the Willamette Valley, the native soil is silt-based clay soil, so if you get much rain on it, it doesn’t take long for it to become mud.
“So, we had an unfortunate situation against Central of Iowa where we blocked a kick, they picked it up behind the line of scrimmage and ran it in for a touchdown. That was the issue that started the discussion about a turf field.”
The outrage due to the overtime loss spurred the $1.4 million renovation to Maxwell Field in 2004 (coincidentally, Linfield went on to win the Division III football title later that year).
The project included a new FieldTurf surface to replace the grass, as well as an upgraded track, which went from latex-based to a longer-lasting polyurethane surface.
Plus, a state-of-the-art, 10-by-25-foot scoreboard with color video display replaced the 25-year-old scoreboard.
Other additions included: NFL-sized field goal posts; four light towers; upgraded 25-second play clocks; and the reconstruction of the press box, which is now completely enclosed.
And, if $1.4 million seems a bit light for all of those upgrades, consider the Linfield community coming together to make this dream a reality.
“We had a lot of gifts-in-kind for materials. We had one guy give us four months of his time as a project manager. We had alumni that stepped forward with machinery one that donated a dump truck and driver for a big part of the project,” explains Carnahan.
“Because it’s a smaller community, we worked together on this project in coordination with a lot of time on my part. But, if you put a cost value on what we actually did versus the dollars we had to spend, it probably would have cost us 30 to 40 percent more if we had paid everything out.”
But, that doesn’t mean the time leading up to the completion of the project was an easy one for Carnahan. Linfield has 19 varsity sports, which all require the athletic director’s attention.
So, adding in being the primary fundraiser on a $1.4 million project, as well as being the head baseball coach at the time, made life chaotic for Carnahan. But he took it all in stride with the long-term goal always in the back of his mind.
“The coaching and working philosophy within our athletic department is that it is job-oriented and not time-oriented,” Carnahan explains. “So, if something takes longer to do to make it right and to be successful, then we are going to do that.
“Sure, at that time I was burning at both ends a little bit, but when you catch the momentum and get excited about something, it makes it a little easier to spend that extra time on it.”
Now, with the stadium renovation seven years old, Carnahan says having upgraded facilities is the key for attracting players into the Linfield program.
He sees four ways that Division III schools, which cannot offer athletic aid, can sell themselves as attractive to students:
- Academic. Carnahan says all schools in the Northwest Conference possess high-level academics.
- Athletic. This is about success but also about opportunity. The “opportunity” side is a bit more difficult of a sell at Linfield due to the tremendous success of the program. Not every player comes into this program and is going to play immediately, no matter the talent level.
- Social. This involves the town and community.
- Cost. “You put those four elements together (as a student) and you say, ‘Is this is a good place for me to come?’ during recruiting,” Carnahan says.
“Since we enhanced the facilities in 2004, we became a leader in what a football facility could be like. So, when a kid visited member institutions in our conference, then came here, they could say that we have a great program and facilities, nice field, nice scoreboard, a lot of community support and bigger crowds,” which makes Linfield an attractive option, he adds.