For the first time in nearly 55 years, University of Detroit Mercy’s outdoor varsity athletic teams will play home contests under lights.
Detroit Mercy today announced the installation of permanent lighting at Titan Field, located in the northeast corner of the University’s McNichols Campus. The lights — four poles each housing an array of LED lights — will be officially unveiled on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m., when Detroit Mercy’s men’s soccer team hosts University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
The state-of-the-art addition is one of the initiatives in The Campaign for University of Detroit Mercy, a $100-million fundraising effort that supports student scholarships, academic programs, faculty research and facilities. The campaign, which marks a significant milestone in the University’s history, reached its $100-million goal in January 2019, one year ahead of schedule; it will conclude on Dec. 31.
The total cost of the lighting project is $600,000, funded completely through philanthropic gifts from nearly 30 donors.
“I am very thankful to the more than 30 alumni who quickly funded this important project. Our student-athletes are the primary beneficiaries because they will have more options to practice and play,” said Antoine M. Garibaldi, president of Detroit Mercy.
Titan Field is home to Detroit Mercy’s NCAA Division I varsity men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s lacrosse programs. Each of the University’s 17 varsity athletic programs uses Titan Field and its facilities for training, conditioning and offseason workouts.
“The addition of lights shows a sign of progress and that Detroit Mercy is making things happen,” said Robert Vowels, Jr., Detroit Mercy’s director of Athletics. “I think this is one of the wonderful ways to enhance student-athlete welfare and experience. We’re trying to put our stamp on the Detroit Mercy experience.”
The installation of lights headlines the initial phase of Detroit Mercy’s Athletic Village project, a $2.25-million investment in the University’s student-athletes and the community. Detroit Mercy is continuing its fundraising to complete the Athletic Village and create an endowed maintenance fund to help preserve the upgrades for years to come.
“We want to give our student-athletes and fans the best possible experience at Detroit Mercy,” said Jason Varlesi, director of Development for Athletics at Detroit Mercy. “Thanks to many generous donors, step one of our vision of an all-encompassing Athletic Village is in place. For us to come together and make our vision a reality for our student-athletes, fans and Detroit Mercy community is an amazing feeling.”
This lighting project also illuminates the ongoing efforts of the institution as it repositions itself as one of the region’s top higher education assets. For 18 straight years, Detroit Mercy has been listed in the top tier of Midwest Best Regional Universities in the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges.”
Detroit Mercy has made remarkable strides in recent years. The University has received support and implemented numerous programmatic, capital and neighborhood enhancements, including:
- The Center for Automotive Systems Engineering Education (CASEE) and Frederick and Suzanne Seibert Center for Innovation and Collaboration in the College of Science & Engineering.
- The Charlton Center for Responsible Investing and the Center of Practice & Research in Management & Ethics (PRIME Center) in the College of Business Administration.
- A $6.1-million estate gift to endow a new chair in the College of Business Administration, the largest single gift in the University’s history.
- An active learning classroom in the Jane and Walter O. Briggs Building, which allows students and teachers to collaborate more and use technology to ensure students learn in ways that are meaningful to them.
- A talk by National Book Award-winner Ibram X. Kendi — funded by the Drs. Karen and Thomas Waters African-American Studies Program Enrichment Fund — which brought more than 400 students, faculty, staff and community members to hear about the history of race relations.
- Enhancements to the Livernois-McNichols corridor through the Live6 Alliance, which was cofounded by Detroit Mercy and the Kresge Foundation.
Lights have not been present at the University’s outdoor athletic facilities since 1971, the final year of its football stadium’s existence. The University has not hosted an outdoor varsity athletic event at night since Nov. 6, 1964, when its football team defeated Virginia Military Institute, 28-7, in its final season as a program.
“We wanted something that would let people know that University of Detroit Mercy has something to show that we’re here and that the future is bright,” said Arnold D’Ambrosio, vice president for University Advancement at Detroit Mercy. “The lights are on again. We haven’t had lights on the field in over 50 years. I think that’s a big statement.”
Installing lights at Titan Field creates the potential for numerous opportunities at Detroit Mercy, including:
- The ability to host the Horizon League postseason tournament in men’s and women’s soccer should either Detroit Mercy team finish the regular season first in the league. With the absence of lights, both programs previously had to forfeit the right to host.
- Enhancing Detroit Mercy’s women’s lacrosse program’s bid to host the Southern Conference (SoCon) women’s lacrosse postseason tournament.
- Extended hours for the Detroit Mercy community and surrounding neighborhoods to utilize Titan Field’s track.
- Improving student life and activity offerings to Detroit Mercy students by allowing them to participate in intramural sports at Titan Field in the evening and night.
- Strengthening Detroit Mercy’s relationship with Detroit and neighboring communities by potentially hosting youth and high school sports games and other events at Titan Field. The University’s Calihan Hall and Buysse Ballpark are longtime hosts for Catholic High School League (CHSL) playoff games and Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) tournament games in boy’s and girl’s basketball and softball.
“I think the lights give us a step in the right direction, where we might be able to, down the road, host some more outside events that can bring more people to Detroit Mercy and experience what we have to offer,” said Clifford Sims, Detroit Mercy’s assistant athletic director for Marketing and Event Operations. “It’s always good to have more opportunities to bring more people to campus and affect people in the community in a positive way.”
As a former student-athlete at Detroit Mercy, men’s soccer head coach Nicholas Deren ’99 knows firsthand how important the lights will be for all the University’s student-athletes.
“It’s going to be better and easier on the student-athletes,” Deren said. “That’s really why I’m happy about it. They can go to school all day, we can train in the evening and the two don’t mix.”
Titan Field’s lights have several notable features, including the ability to be controlled by a wireless device.
Detroit Mercy is hosting several events over the coming weeks to celebrate the addition of lights with the University community and neighborhood:
- Sept. 14, 7 p.m. — The lights make their game-day debut as the Titans men’s soccer team hosts Milwaukee.
- Sept. 21, 7 p.m. — The men’s soccer team hosts University of Illinois at Chicago to cap Detroit Mercy’s Homecoming weekend. There will also a special donor recognition event on Sept. 21 to honor those who helped make lights at Titan Field possible.
- Sept. 28, 7 p.m. — The women’s soccer team makes its debut under the lights against University of Wisconsin Green Bay.
In all, the Titans will play nine varsity soccer matches under Titan Field’s lights in 2019.