INSTITUTE, W.Va. — Major renovations to Lakin-Ray Field at Dickerson Stadium on the campus of West Virginia State University are underway and were celebrated on Tuesday.
University officials, state and local leaders, benefactors, and student-athletes participated in a ceremonial presentation on the site of the ground-breaking venture. The nearly $2 million project will include the installation of artificial turf and stadium lights, along with new bleachers, to accommodate future football contests and women’s soccer matches, officials said.
“This is a special day for our university, our student-athletes and our fans,” said WVSU Athletic Director Nate Burton said in a release.
“The project will not only enhance the ability of our teams to recruit exceptional student-athletes from across the country, but it will enhance the ability of our current student-athletes to prepare, train, and compete for championships. We are extremely grateful for the generous support from the Honey Bear Project, the Jacobson Foundation, and the Kanawha County Commission.”
The announcement on Tuesday featured Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Lanier, whose non-profit Honey Bear Project has pledged $1.28 million for artificial turf for the field through its HBCU Field of Dreams Program. The main goal of the program is to raise $50 million over the next three years to install state-of-the-art playing surfaces at nearly three dozen HBCU football stadiums, a release said.
West Virginia State became the fifth school to receive a gift from the Honey Bear Project and further the mission of providing facility upgrades to deserving HBCUs.
Other funding necessary to bring stadium lighting and bleachers to Lakin-Ray Field was provided by a $250,000 gift from the Bernard H. and Blanche E. Jacobson Foundation as well as a $150,000 contribution from the Kanawha County Commission.
Burton told MetroNews the Shaw Sports Turf will be fully planted and ready for use in time for Homecoming when the Yellow Jackets host UNC Pembroke on Oct. 16th. The Yellow Jackets have two scheduled home football games before that date and Burton said the program is working with the Mountain East Conference to determine a site to play.
Burton said options to play those games, Frostburg State (Sept. 11) and Alderson Broaddus (Oct. 2) are at other local institutions, high schools, neutral sites or playing them as road games.
The Musco Sports Lighting will begin to be installed In November, Burton said. He said the lights are planned to be operational before the conclusion of the fall 2021 season.
The new bleachers are scheduled to be installed in Spring 2022.
Burton said the university can use the entire facility as a recruiting tool for the rising football and women’s soccer programs.
“It gives our coaches the opportunity to attract the best talent out there,” burton said.
“It was one of the first things that we heard back from recruits, we decided to go elsewhere because of the field. They can’t use that excuse anymore and not be able to come to West Virginia State.”