Buffalo, NY – Finding open space to play a game of soccer, softball or lacrosse, let alone seat hundreds of fans, has posed a problem for those who live, work and attend school in the city of Buffalo.
Dobson Field - found at the corner of Porter Avenue and Fourth Street in Buffalo, NY - is the home of the D’Youville Spartans soccer, lacrosse and softball programs. At 225 feet wide and 360 feet long, the all-turf facility meets full NCAA Division III guidelines. With two scoreboards accompanied by adjacent locker rooms, athletic training room, bath rooms and office, the facility offers a great deal to athletes, as well as fans.
Late in the summer of 2014, Dobson Field (then D’Youville Athletic Complex) saw its first game on September 4th as the D’Youville women’s soccer team hosted the Thiel Tomcats for a 3-0 victory. Picking up an assist on the first ever goal was then sophomore and now senior captain of the women’s soccer team, Rachel Hermanski. Playing her freshman season at Riverside Park - the previous home of the Spartans - Hermanski recalls how playing at Dobson for the first time signaled a change in the soccer program and the atmosphere of the school.
“At Riverside we still felt like an away team, but now with our own field we have a true home field advantage,” said Hermanski. “It makes us proud as Spartans to have our own facility at D’Youville.”
The energy and buzz surrounding Dobson Field has become infectious during games and has helped build D’Youville women’s soccer. An immediate impact has been seen that allows for an overall better experience for players and fans.
“The field has definitely made a positive impact on our program,” Hermanski continued. “Having our own field creates an atmosphere that makes home games more enjoyable.”
That atmosphere is persistent through the fall and into the spring as the D’Youville softball team has brought a winning culture to the diamond portion of Dobson. Head softball coach Ona Halladay has led her team to two consecutive AMCC regular season championships and D’Youville has hosted the AMCC Softball Championship Tournament at Dobson Field each of the last two seasons.
“It was an honor to coach teams in the past years who worked to bring the AMCC Championships to Dobson Field two years in a row,” said Halladay. “Every time I walk out on that field I am thankful to work for an AD who fought tooth and nail to get a facility like Dobson field for our athletes, and also for an institution who has bought into athletics at D’Youville and are continuing to.”
The driving force behind Dobson Field’s creation was and is Director of Athletics Brian Cavanaugh. After taking over the role as Director of Athletics in 2005, Cavanaugh envisioned finding a home for his outdoor sports teams, as his indoor sports teams had the recently constructed College Center Gymnasium to play in. After eight years of working with the hierarchy of D’Youville, land was secured and the financing was attained to begin constructing the dream Cavanaugh has been fighting to create.
Along with Cavanaugh, the entire athletic department was part of the design process with architects and ground broke for construction in the fall of 2013. Located three blocks away from the main campus, Dobson Field has been widely accepted by the D’Youville community, especially the student body.
“The entire campus has been using Dobson,” said Cavanaugh. “It has been well received in the community with local groups wanting to rent and use this modern facility.”
From the student perspective, Dobson Field has helped give D’Youville an identity and showed the ever expanding nature of the college. Junior captain of the women’s basketball team and Athletics Committee President Ali Cochrane started at D’Youville in the field’s first year of existence and has seen how the field has represented the school.
“The new athletic field is a great representation of how D’Youville is continuing to expand,” said Cochrane. “Being a school that primarily caters to health professionals, with students who are extremely focused and determined to do well in their programs, the field helps athletics get a little more recognition on the campus.”
Open field times for students have been implemented as well to give the general student body access to the field. This provides the opportunity to use the space to take a break from studying or clear their minds with exercise. With the field’s close proximity to the campus, it allows for easier access to students to get out and see games and further their college experience.
“It has been difficult in the past to get students out to athletic events because D’Youville’s ‘home fields’ weren’t exactly close in proximity,” explained Cochrane. “Having the field within walking distance of the main campus encourages more students to go to athletic events and support their fellow student-athletes.”
Not only are current students attracted by Dobson, but it helps bring in prospective student-athletes. Dobson’s state of the art features allows recruits to get a sense of what it means to be a Spartan when stepping through the facility gates.
“Dobson Field has separated us from most Division III programs in WNY in terms of facilities,” said Halladay. “Playing on our field has created a big time atmosphere which all competitive athletes live for. It is a great selling point with regards to recruiting but has also brought young softball players in to watch games and see what being a Spartan looks like.”
As for incoming student-athletes, the feeling of stepping onto the field takes their experience to another level. In 2014, current junior men’s soccer player Aweso Noor was part of the freshman class that was the first to ever play on Dobson Field. He recalls the initial feeling that came to him when he was first able to step on the field as a Spartan.
“It truly was an exciting moment the very first day of practice to wake up at six in the morning and walk onto that field,” exclaimed Noor. “What beat this feeling, however, was the grand opening game with the addition of support from everyone. Being the very first team to be out on that field was an amazing, unforgettable honor. Some people take things for granted but this is not one where I for one have so I appreciate every moment on that field with my teammates and fans who cheer us on.”
The 2014 D’Youville men’s soccer team was the first team in program history to make a postseason appearance as they made the AMCC Playoffs as the six seed. Three of the team’s four wins that season came on their new home turf, including a four game unbeaten streak in conference play that allowed the Spartans to reach the playoffs. The first two games of that unbeaten streak came on Dobson Field as well as their first win in over a year.
“It's no coincidence that the recent success of the men's soccer team in the last few years is a result of having a field to call home,” exclaimed Noor. “Teams can no longer just expect to face a D'Youville men's soccer team and expect an easy out. The simple fact of having a home field enables the team to lure some talent to bolster a young squad on the rise. For any institution to be successful it must have a foundation and I see the field as just that. It's the building block that will in the next few years allow the team to continuously be in position to have some success.”
All of the amenities that Dobson has to offer has provides a premier experience for fans and players. An all-turf facility allows for very few games that are rained out due to the field’s drainage system. The lights surrounding the field allow for early morning and late evening practices to accommodate the varying schedules of student-athletes. For out of town fans, Dobson is equipped with internet for live stats and video streaming capabilities within the press boxes for soccer/lacrosse and softball, allowing for fans and parents to watch games from thousands of miles away.
With all of these available features, Dobson has become a sought after facility in Western New York to practice and play. Former Dobson Field Coordinator and head women’s basketball coach Dan Glover has seen the demand for time on Dobson Field increase steadily ever since the red ribbon was cut in September 2014 and expects interest in the field to increase.
“We rent our facilities to numerous organizations from youth travel, amateur recreation leagues, and semi-professional,” said Glover. “Sports range from soccer, softball, lacrosse and flag football.”
The field currently houses practices for local soccer programs such as Black Watch Premier and FC Buffalo. Men’s soccer head coach Brendan Murphy and women’s soccer head coach Jim Hesch have ties to Black Watch Premier as both coach for the organization and Hesch is one of the founding members. Murphy is the former head coach of Buffalo FC, allowing his familiarity with the field to provide a practice facility for the team.
The rentals also create revenue for the field and jobs for D’Youville students. Field managers are put on duty during rentals and are in charge of opening and closing the field, setting up equipment, assisting renters and providing anything else that may be required to make the rental run smoothly. These field managers are primarily graduate students at D’Youville, helping incorporate more students into the workings of Dobson.
The named Dobson Field comes from Arthur F. Dobson, a former prominent Buffalo attorney who passed away following a cycling accident in Slovenia. Carl J. Montante, CEO of Uniland Development Company - current member of the D’Youville Board of Trustees and close friend of Mr. Dobson - secured the naming rights for the field in honor of his longtime friend. Uniland Development Company was founded in 1974 by Mr. Montante and Mrs. Dobson, who currently serves as Executive Vice President of the company. Mr. Dobson provided his legal expertise to Uniland for over 30 years.
Officially opened for just over two years, the improvements continued to be made the more success has been seen at the corner of Porter Ave and Fourth Street. In the spring of 2017, the field will host its first season of D’Youville women’s lacrosse. A new and improved softball fence will line the outfield for the 2017 softball season along with championship banners that will dawn the program’s recent success. While school is not in session during the summer, teams from throughout Western New York will continue to rent the field and get the most out of what Dobson Field has to offer.
Looking into the future, Director Cavanaugh foresees Dobson Field as a staple of D’Youville, the conference and Buffalo as a whole.
“Dobson will be a vital part of the D’Youville campus for the next 100 years and has already assisted in recruiting new events and students to Porter Avenue,” exclaimed Cavanaugh. “Dobson is a jewel and has established D’Youville College Athletics within the NCAA at the Division III and the AMCC.”
From an idea a decade prior to a staple of D’Youville College and the landscape of Buffalo athletics, Dobson Field is the accumulation of years of planning, hard work, dedication and relentlessness. Starting with the hierarchy of D’Youville and the D’Youville athletic department on down to the students and student-athletes, what Dobson Field is and will be can be accredited to those who put the hard work in on and off the field to make it is what it is: a field of dreams.