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Stadium Renovation: There's No Place Like Home

CHICAGO - DePaul is getting ready to phase in a new era of hosting soccer matches at Wish Field and softball games at Cacciatore Stadium.

Upon completion of an ambitious renovation project by late summer, DePaul will have an attractive, fan-friendly facility that will greatly enhance the game experience.

"It's going to be a great facility for student-athletes to play in," said Blue Demons softball coach Eugene Lenti. "We can show recruits a state-of-the-art stadium that rivals any in the country."

The women's soccer team will unveil the new Wish Field with its home opener Aug. 27th against St. Bonaventure.

And the timing couldn't be better as the Blue Demons return 10 of 11 starters from last year's breakthrough season that saw them qualify for the BIG EAST Championship tournament for the first time.

"We couldn't be more excited about the commitment our athletic department and the university have made to our soccer and softball programs," said women's soccer coach Erin Chastain. "The new facility is going to create an outstanding college atmosphere for all the programs involved.

"We certainly hope this will enhance our home-field advantage. It should be a wonderful environment to watch a soccer game, and we hope that environment attracts a large fan base to support our teams."

It will be a fan base that has fun coming out to the ballpark.

"It's going to be a better environment for everyone," said Director of Athletics Facilities Michael Lenti. "We'll have a complete concessions stand, great sightlines and ample seating for about 1,200.

"This will be a much more professional setting with better crowd-control and easier access for the fans. You won't have to walk three blocks around to the entrance---it will be right there on Belden Avenue.

"No more portable bleachers, and there will be space for tailgating and special events. This is going to be a terrific on-campus facility."

Michael Lenti said phase two of the renovation began on May 10 and is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 20. The seating, new softball press box and concessions stand are the main components of phase two.

"We hope to get back on the field by Aug. 16, and have all the bleachers finished by Sept. 4" Michael Lenti said.

"The softball press box will have stands for television cameras, a state-of-the-art video system and room for 12 people with phone lines and data connections."

 That will pave the way for DePaul to host events such as the BIG EAST Conference Championship tournament and the NCAA Regional and Super Regional.

"That's the biggest plus for us," Eugene Lenti said. "You work so hard all year to be able to play at home for those big events."

The new Wish Field will be a big boost for a men's soccer program that has competed in four consecutive BIG EAST Championship tournaments, advancing to the semifinals in 2007 and 2008.

"Perception is reality, and this is very important to the athletics department," said men's soccer coach Craig Blazer. "All of Chicago will see that DePaul and BIG EAST soccer has a forum to be successful in this city.

"In discussions with players and recruits, they are starting to understand how big DePaul soccer can be. This new facility is going to make it even tougher for visiting teams to win here.

"For recruiting, it's going to be huge. And when our DePaul soccer community comes out to games, it's going to be a great experience."

Eugene Lenti summed up the significance of this renovation.

"In the toughest of economic times, DePaul is making the commitment to spend a lot of money on behalf of its student-athletes," Lenti said. "That tells you how the university values its athletics program."