MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Virtue Field House glowed like a beacon in the night as more than 600 visitors streamed into the building for its much-awaited dedication ceremony on January 24.
Inside, the facility was abuzz with excitement as the College community got its first glimpse of the 110,000-square-foot building that will host varsity, club, intramural, and recreational sports. The crowd – alumni, trustees, students, parents, faculty, staff, and community members – witnessed how the field house and the gleaming new entrance into the Peterson Family Athletics Complex have transformed and integrated Middlebury’s indoor athletic venue, including Kenyon Arena, the Natatorium, the Squash Center, Pepin Gym, and other facilities.
First-time visitors to the field house will be dazzled by its sheer size. The 6-lane, 200-meter New Balance Foundation Track (9 lanes for sprinters) will enable the College to host regional and NCAA indoor track and field events for the first time in its history, starting next year with the 2016 Women’s Division III New England Indoor Track and Field Championship.
The green expanses of McCormick Field, named for Trustee Roxanne McCormick Leighton ’67, will accommodate numerous field events, including high jump, shot put and weight throw. (Long jump, triple jump, and pole vault will take place on the outside of the track.) Varsity teams can use the field to begin preparing for the spring season while snow is still on the ground and to practice during inclement weather any time of year.
The glass-walled Fritz Family Balcony, named for Martie and Rick Fritz ’68, provides a spectacular view of activity inside the field house and will contain more than 30 pieces of cardio equipment. Goldsmith Lounge, also with windows looking onto the field, is a flexible multipurpose space ideal for fitness classes and spectators.
Dahl Plaza, in honor of W. Robert Dahl ’78 and Leslie Dahl, welcomes visitors as they approach the new entrance to the Peterson Family Athletics Complex.
President Ronald D. Liebowitz spoke at the dedication ceremony and noted that Virtue Field House, the Squash Center, and the other improvements to the Peterson Family Athletics Complex comprised “the first building project in the modern history of Middlebury to be fully funded by donors.” The president thanked the James S. Davis ’66 family and the Milton Peterson ’58 family, along with the McCormick, Dahl, Fritz, and Goldsmith families.
In introducing Middlebury Trustee Ted Virtue and Dani Shaw Virtue, both graduates of the class of 1982, Liebowitz recounted their respective athletic and academic accomplishments and their family connections to Middlebury. “I am thrilled and honored to dedicate the field house in their name,” said Liebowitz.
Virtue said he and his wife, both of whom competed as varsity athletes during their time at Middlebury, are “believers in the power of sports to teach life’s important lessons: teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, discipline, how to compete, how to win, and sometimes how to lose. All of these are critical lessons for success in life, and there is no school in the country better than Middlebury at balancing athletics and academics.”
Virtue also spoke eloquently about his coaches Mickey Heinecken and Russ Reilly, both in attendance at Saturday’s event and both now retired.
“We have an incredibly talented and passionate coaching staff to teach our sports and teach those important life lessons to all of our athletes,” Virtue said. “We at Middlebury we play to win and we win a lot, and that carries on into other parts of life for every athlete who comes here.”
Erin Quinn ’86, director of athletics, called Virtue Field House the culmination of “visionary leadership, years of planning, and the generous support of our donors.” He mentioned the “great collaboration” among campus partners including faculty, staff, coaches, and students, and praised the building’s “elegant, coherent, and warm architectural sensibility.”
Quinn introduced the eight captains of the track and field teams for a ceremonial passing of relay batons that had been inscribed for the occasion. The senior captains are Ola Fadairo, Sarah Guth, Holly Lanchantin, Alison Maxwell, Emma McGuirk, Fritz Parker, Chris Veasey, and Kevin Wood.
Designed by the Boston-based architectural firm Sasaki Associates, the field house project – which also includes new locker rooms, office spaces, expanded sports medicine facilities, and support spaces – is notable for its sustainability. Though nearly twice the size of the structure it replaced, Virtue Field House will consume slightly less energy than its predecessor. It features eight, 24-foot-wide ceiling fans to circulate air, LED lighting, recycled material in the flooring, super insulated walls and ceilings, an abundance of natural light, and numerous spaces designed for flexible uses. Middlebury plans to seek LEED Gold designation for the project from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Large crowds gathered Saturday night around the dazzling Middlebury Athletics History Wall, which provides users with an interactive experience through the annals of sports at the College. People waited in line to touch the wall, select a sport and a decade, and travel back in time through more than 6,000 photos, clippings, and ephemera culled from Middlebury’s archives. Situated directly across the hall from the history wall, the elegant Middlebury Athletics Hall of Fame displayed large images of its first five inductees, who were honored at a dinner later that evening.
Reporting by Robert Keren; videos by Stephen Diehl and Ben Savard ’14; photography by Todd Balfour, Brett Simison, and Yeager “Teddy” Anderson ’13.5; with additional video footage by Yeager “Teddy” Anderson ’13.5