Calvin to invest in goals of Strategic Plan for Athletics, including possible football team


Ryan Struyk

Plans for investment include two new turf fields, a stadium, an amphitheater, more varsity athletics, potentially including football, and new club sports teams.

Calvin Athletics is implementing phase one of its five-year Strategic Plan for Athletics, which includes plans for two new turf fields, stadiums, an amphitheater, more varsity athletics — potentially including football — and new club sports teams.

Renovations to kick off the first phase of the plan are set to begin soon, with about $4 million in university funds earmarked for Calvin Athletics investments this year and about $15 million planned for Athletics investments over the next three years.  

We want to bring our outdoor facilities back up to [the level of] our indoor facilities.

— Noah Toly

The first phase targets three main areas: outdoor athletics, increased athletic staff and faculty, and on-campus programming — which includes more varsity, club and intramural sports and an amphitheater for performances. “We want to bring our outdoor facilities back up to [the level of] our indoor facilities,” Provost Noah Toly said. Two new turf fields and a track, which will replace current fields, will improve practices, games, club and intramural sports and will allow Calvin to host more tournaments, according to administration.

“We hope to start as soon as the fall, outdoor seasons end and get as much done until winter hits … then start again as soon [as] spring allows us to, ” Chief Financial Officer Tim Fennema said. The goal is to have playable fields by August 1, 2023, according to Fennema.  

Director of Athletics James Timmer told Chimes he hopes the investment will also help increase faculty and staff. “A few years ago, there were positions cut. In order to grow athletics again, we need those positions back,” Timmer said. The trimmed positions included a director of club sports, assistant coaches, and facilities and operations staff, according to Timmer. 

The Strategic Plan aims to eventually launch a varsity men’s volleyball and men’s and women’s acrobatics teams, as well as support more club sports and esports. “Right now, club sports are student-run and part of Student Life. The Strategic Plan says that they should come over to Calvin Athletics,” Timmer said. Calvin Athletics wants to make club sports a happy medium for those who want something more competitive than intramurals but not as much of a commitment as varsity athletics. 

Sports is a melting pot that drives and attracts people.

— James Timmer

Adding a football team to the Calvin Athletics program is not out of the question. “Currently football is not approved, but it is going through the vetting process to see if we want to make that commitment,” Timmer said. 

“These [planned new] fields allow us to have the capacity for a football team if we desire it,” Fennema said. The addition of a football team is one idea administrators plan to bring before the board of trustees at the board’s October meeting; the feasibility of football at Calvin has been an ongoing discussion for at least the last 15 years.

Calvin’s Strategic Plan for Athletics also includes a separate amphitheater, intended to be built behind Kalsbeek Huizenga van Reken residence hall. According to Fennema,  the amphitheater would be used for outdoor concerts and live performances. Site preparation for the amphitheater is a part of phase one, and construction will take place in phase two. 

Calvin Athletics believes that these improvements will help Calvin “to remain a top level division three program. … Athletics requires resources — things like strength and training coaches, athletic trainers and athletic administration, which relates to the experience that student athletes have,” Timmer. 

University administration hopes the investment will bring “an improved employee experience, best-in-class student experience and comprehensive growth in enrollment, not just in non-traditional students, but in traditional students as well,” said Toly. 

For Timmer, the plans also have the potential to “increase Calvin’s profile and reignite the school spirit” that dwindled due to the pandemic. Adding more club and varsity teams  “opens up doors to more markets of students. Esports, acrobatics, tumbling and football [all] bring different types of students … Sports is a melting pot that drives and attracts people,” Timmer said.