In 1929, Gustavus Adolphus College fund raising produced $25,000 for a new football stadium.

Now, a $6 million campaign is under way to replace it.

Come fall 2007, the old Hollingsworth Field will give way to the new when the Gusties begin play on an artificial turf field ensconced with a vastly improved stadium venue.

Considering the age and condition of the existing stadium, the project may be as pronounced an upgrade as there is to be found in college football.

Though the existing Hollingsworth Field grass playing surface and heart-of-the-campus setting evoke a quintessential small-college football setting, the stadium evokes something else.

As a Fenway Park of college football, minus Fenway’s charm, the facility’s usability is on a year-to-year basis.

“It’s the kind of structure now where we’ve got to bring in engineers each year just to verify it’s good for another season,” says Gustavus athletic director Al Molde. “From that standpoint, it needs to go.”

The new facility will be built on the site of the existing baseball field adjacent to the current Hollingsworth. Close proximity to the existing venue was vital, Molde says.

“We surveyed alumni and asked what they liked about the current structure, and there was the strong feeling that what they liked best was its closeness to the campus itself. We wanted to preserve that warm, inclusive feeling when we went about planning a new structure.”

The $6 million cost is part of a larger campus facilities-expansion plan for completion of a “west mall” to include new academic and student-residence buildings.

It also includes moving the baseball field to the northwest corner of the campus.

The new football facility will include:

n A playing surface recessed about 10 feet below ground level and covered with FieldTurf, the same artificial surface as in the Metrodome.

n A 2,000-seat stadium, the same as now, with capacity for another 1,000 spectators in stands on the visitors side.

n Improved sightlines resulting from the “sunken” field and seating areas closer to the action.

n Grass berms surrounding the field, with larger berm areas beyond the end zones, for casual viewing and picnicking.

n A concrete walkway atop the berms that will encircle the entire field.

n Improved press facilities and an enclosed VIP lounge.

“This will be a shot in the arm for our football program. No question,” Molde says.

Gusties football coach Jay Schoenebeck says he’s been using the future stadium as part of his recruiting pitch to high school players.

“Facilities matter,” he says. “Just in our league alone, most schools have upgraded their facilities.”

Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools with artificial turf fields include St. John’s, St. Thomas, Hamline and Augsburg, with upgrades at Macalester in the offing.

“I’m prejudiced. I’m an old-school grass guy,” Schoenebeck says. “But I’ll tell you, this turf stuff is really nice.”

FieldTurf uses nonabrasive polyethylene fibers surrounded and stabilized with a “synthetic earth” comprised of silica sand, rubber granules, and re-ground athletic shoe material

In addition to football, the new field will be used extensively by Gustavus recreation classes. The facility also will be used for special events such as graduation ceremonies.

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