Carl Sheffield has waited more than 20 years for a moment that will arrive sometime in the next few weeks.
Sheffield, UNT’s director of track and field, will gather his athletes, give them their plan for the day and send them out to run on the school’s new track.
UNT is on the verge of completing construction on the $13.6 million venue. The school’s coaches began moving in over the last several days.
“When we broke ground on it, I thought I was on the way to heaven,” said Sheffield said. “I’m excited for our athletes.”
The reasons for that excitement are obvious. UNT’s track team called Fouts Field home since it opened in 1952. Sheffield is entering his 23rd year with the program and his seventh as its head coach.
Fouts was once a track mecca. The venue hosted regional high school meets and the Sun Belt Conference championships.
Fouts began to deteriorate when the school put a new track venue in its long-term plans and scaled back efforts to maintain the historic stadium several years ago.
The track has not been resurfaced in more than 10 years. School officials say it mirrors a city street more than a track surface now.
UNT’s new venue will have a state-of-the-art Kelly-green surface.
The school’s soccer program that is coming off its sixth NCAA tournament appearance will also benefit from the new stadium.
UNT’s new soccer field will be located inside the track and will replace Mean Green Soccer Stadium. UNT’s soccer team has called the converted high school football field home since 2006.
“We hope this will take us up a notch,” said UNT soccer coach John Hedlund, who dreams of seeing his team make a splash nationally. The Mean Green fell to 0-6 in the NCAA tournament in November when they lost to Texas A&M in their second straight appearance in the national championship tournament.
“We’d like to get into the NCAA tournament and go deep,” Hedlund said.
The following is a sneak peek at UNT’s new facility and the impact it will make on UNT’s track and soccer programs.
Carl Sheffield, North Texas' director of track and field, discusses the impact of the the school's new $13.6 million soccer/track stadium in the video above.
UNT's new soccer/track venue will provide lift to both programs
The biggest benefit of UNT’s new soccer/track venue is that it will allow the school’s track team to host home meets.
UNT has not hosted a meet since 2014 due to the condition of Fouts Field.
“We could have run meets at Fouts, but it’s like bringing people to your house,” Sheffield said. “You don’t want to do that when your house is in disarray.”
The UNT soccer team hosted plenty of home games over the years at Mean Green Soccer Stadium but was unable to bid to host NCAA tournament games. UNT’s old field didn’t meet NCAA standards for the event.
UNT purchased the old Liberty Christian campus in 2005 and converted it into athletic facilities. The private school’s football field became the home for UNT’s soccer team.
UNT had hoped to move into its new venue in time for the 2018 soccer season but was forced to push back opening the venue due to construction delays.
“We are looking forward to the new stands and the new turf,” said Taylor Torres, a forward who helped lead UNT to last season’s NCAA tournament. “It will give us a lot more to work with.”
UNT’s new venue will include a 15,000 square foot field house. The building will also feature a ticket office.
The soccer surface will have a sand base that allows for optimum drainage and Latitude 36 grass. FC Dallas and the Rangers have the same type of grass on their fields.
Moving on from Fouts Field, Mean Green Soccer Stadium
To truly understand how much better off UNT’s track and soccer programs will be in their new venue, one must look back at Fouts.
The facility was the home of the UNT football and track teams for more than 60 years.
The track team moved into the football team’s old locker rooms at Fouts after the Mean Green Athletic Center opened in 2005.
UNT won the 2012 and 2013 Sun Belt Conference titles in women’s outdoor track and field while training at Fouts but has not won a conference title since. The Mean Green finished seventh in the women’s team standings and eighth in the men’s team standings in last season’s Conference USA outdoor championship.
Not having a chance to play at home in the NCAA tournament has also made it tough for UNT’s soccer team to break through.
UNT athletic director Wren Baker and his staff have made giving each of the school’s teams what they need to be successful a priority since arriving at the school in the summer of 2016.
“Some of our facilities were not putting us in the position to be successful,” said Jared Mosley, UNT’s associate vice president for athletics. “This facility will be an upgrade for those coaches and student-athletes.”
Honoring the greats in UNT soccer, track history
Some of the great players in UNT history are featured in murals both inside and outside the venue, including Marilyn Marin, the all-time leading scorer in the history of the school’s soccer program. Former UNT goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine is also pictured.
The middle section of the stands includes chairbacks that will make fans more comfortable when they attend games.
The exterior of the building matches the rest of the venues in the Mean Green Athletic Village.