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'It's a jewel': New Western University stadium drawing rave reviews

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London, Ont. -

The aerial view of new field turf and the purple running track at Western University in London, Ont. is striking.

"This is a jewel," says Christine Stapleton, sport and recreation director at Western.

Western chose to invest $5 million in a renovation throughout the pandemic while sport was in a stoppage. It included a new playing surface, eight-lane, 400 metre running track, modern training facilities and 10,000-person seating capacity.

"The ability to replace the track, the field and all the drainage, there's parts of this project that you can't see that are so important to the space," says Stapleton.

"We did a big safety upgrade for the bleachers, and we're looking forward to adding 500 new stadium chairs. The lighting will be highly energy efficient LED lighting and we'll have the ability to direct the light onto the field so that there's not a spray of light into the community".

Stapleton also says they will improving the media area, football locker room, lounge area and adding platforms for unique spectator viewing.

The Mustangs Football team is off to a 2-0 start on the new home turf.

"The players love it, it looks good, it's fast and so far we haven't had a lot of injuries so it's safer," says Greg Marshall, head coach of the Western football team.

"These surfaces after probably 10-12 years, start to get compressed and the fibers begin to break down. And then the layer underneath it begins to you know harden so it was time,” said Marshall. “Every year, the technology around the field and infill in the field gets better and this is a much better field than we had before".

Marshall credited the university for investing in upgrades during what he says was 'a very difficult year' for the athletic programs.

The stadium, which has turned 20 years old, was originally built to host the 2001 Canada Summer Games. The infrastructure upgrades could potentially open more doors for Tourism London.

"The temporary upgrades done for the Ontario Summer Games in 2018, were required in order to host that event," says Zanth Jarvis, sport tourism director at Tourism London.

"It's nice now to not have to do such upgrades to host the 2024 Summer Games that we have coming up,” Jarvis explained. “Hopefully there's some athletics events down the road that we can look at as well, especially with the certification that they were able to receive for this facility"

Stapleton now considers the facility one of the top facilities in Southwestern Ontario.

"You combine this space along with our hospitality services and our residences, and this will be an attractive destination to come for major events," says Stapleton.

Saturday, Western announced that the athletics stadium has been renamed Western Alumni Stadium following a $1.4-million donation from the Alumni Association. For the past two decades it has been sponsored by TD.

In addition to the stadium’s name change, the former Labatt Lounge will also be renamed the Alumni Lounge. The new name for the stadium and lounge will be in effect for 10 years.

"The Alumni Association has always been a proud supporter of Western and the London community. The renaming of the stadium to the Western Alumni Stadium further signifies the alumni community’s deep ties to Western and to the city, and we are excited to be part of this next chapter,” said Mark Brown, president of the Alumni Association board of directors.

Stapleton says Western has over 300,000 alumni, and now they have a place that they can call home.

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