The Spartans, Castleton State College’s brand new football team, will kick off their first ever season on Saturday with a game against Anna Maria College of Massachusetts.
As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, preparations for the game began almost two years ago.
(Keck) Castleton head football coach Rich Alercio drills players on a field that practically shines with newness. Alercio beat out 150 other candidates for the job at Castleton. He says having the opportunity to put his personal stamp on everything from selecting players and hiring coaches to designing the uniforms and beginning the traditions is a rare opportunity – and challenge.
(Alercio) "In 20 years of coaching college football I think I have a good idea of what to do on offense and defense and special teams and throughout practice – that’s the easy part. But you don’t have any experience at all in starting a football program. There might be about a dozen coaches that have had this opportunity. And most of ‘em have reached out to us and said if you have questions call and such. That’s kind of special."
(Keck) As Alercio and his team practiced on the football field, bulldozers were still carving out nearby baseball and softball fields. The sound of heavy machinery has been a constant on this side of campus as work on the Spartan Atheletic Complex continues
(Wolk) "It takes my breath away ."
(Keck) Castleton president David Wolk looks almost giddy as he looks out over the newly completed $4 million stadium. He points out the specialized Astro turf, lighting, landscaping, walkways, and the stunning new field house.
(Wolk) "There is an unbelievable wow factor. We designed this to coordinate with the tradition of Vermont – the rail history so we have this depot look. And when you walk in you say – Wow.. . . . and it is very attractive to parents and more importantly to students from Vermont and from out of state."
(Keck) The stadium and extra bleachers can seat about 2,000 people. Open grassy areas around the field will accommodate 2,000 more. Not far away is a new skateboard park, parking lot, practice fields and the new softball and baseball fields. Wolk says all together it’s about a $9 million investment.
(Wolk) "The right approach is to embrace and support student athletes. We had just over 100 student athletes when I came eight years ago – we now have 450. They have a higher grade point average, better retention rate, a higher graduation rate they’re good citizens. So it’s been a very good investment for us as we’ve grown our enrollment strategically and become much more competitive."
(Keck) Saturday’s game will not only be a first for the Castleton Spartans, but for the newly formed North Atlantic Conference they’ll be playing in as well. Eight schools, from as far away as Washington, D.C., and Bangor, Maine, make up the conference – which also includes rival Norwich University.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Castleton.