The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

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The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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There’s no place like Belson Stadium

St. John’s is starting to get a severe case of soccer fever. And a lot of it has to do with the opening of Belson Stadium – the team’s new state-of-the-art facility.

The idea for the stadium came in 1996 after the team won the NCAA Championship and the Belson family decided to donate the money.

The 2,300-seat field was primarily funded with a $6 million gift from Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Belson, Esq.

The new stadium will eventually include a press box, private suites and a media room.

Even before construction began on thefield on Feb. 1, 2001 there was plenty of talk about the new stadium that wasn’t limited to the St. John√ØøΩs community.

"Everyone across the country was talking about it and how St. John’s is having this new stadium with the elevation and the new [field turf] and it was just a buzz like that " senior goalkeeper Bill Gaudette said.

Belson opened on Sept. 21, 2002, which was a memorable night for players, fans and the entire University.

"I think especially that first night was incredible with the fireworks going against Wake Forest and it was just a great opening game atmosphere " said senior defender Chris Wingert.

"I remember last year the first game against Wake Forest was like something unbelievable" said senior midfielder Matia Damiani.

The fans loved it as much as the players.

" It was the first soccer game I had gone to on the collegiate level and boy was it a great introduction " said School Spirit Committee co-chair and senior Liz Salogub.

For the team, one of the biggest differences between playing at Belson Stadium and their former home of DaSilva Memorial Field is the actual playing field.

" I think the nicest thing for us is to be able to play on a softer surface because any soccer player around the world will tell you that they’d rather play on grass than turf "        Wingert said.

Another thing that has appeared with Belson is a larger fanbase.

"I think it’s been tremendous," Gaudette said. "I can remember games we played big teams down at DaSilva and there’d be a lot of people there but [now] we’re getting extraordinary [crowds]. I can’t even count how many people at every game."

"It’s great, the fans and everything," Damiani said. "People that don’t even know about soccer [are] coming and watching us."

Any player who has come to Belson, especially opposing goalkeepers, to play against the Red Storm can tell you that the fans certainly make their presence known during the games.

"The fans have been unbelievable and I think they just bring a lot of energy to the game," Wingert said.

"Psyching out the opposing team’s goalie is always a good time. This, along with cheering on the team definitely makes me feel as I am making a difference, however small, to the team’s victory," Salogub said.

Added Gaudette: "I think our fans are actually better than all the fans [of the teams] that we play against.Our fans are just incredible. They’re one of a kind."

All of the yelling from the fans can motivate players.

"A lot of times these things just help us," said Damiani. "They help us with our emotion and everything to [give] more effort. All of these things help us and make us proud to play."

With the new design of Belson, fans are closer to the action than they were at DaSilva, which brings fans and players closer together.

"I think for the fans it’s better becuase they’re right on top of the field," said Wingert. "There’s no track to push them back. Also, we have the stands surrounding all three sides of the field, which is good."

Whether the fans realize it or not, their contribution to the game is an important one. In fact, it was their screaming that enabled Damiani to score the second goal against Syracuse on Sept. 17.

"I think when we played Syracuse they helped us tremendously. I think that, to be honest, they had a huge part in the second goal," Wingert said."My best friend is a sweeper for Syracuse and he told me flat out he couldn’t hear his keeper calling for the ball because the fans were so loud and they ended up having a miscommunication. So, that was a huge part of the game and a huge impact the fans had on the game."

The players consider Belson to be a stadium that is very unique from other stadiums they have played at.

"You really can’t compare to any other stadiums. It’s our home," Gaudette said. "It’s a huge pride we take just stepping on the field even for practice."

The addition of Belson Stadium has given the players pride that will carry on into the future.

"I definitely am proud to have this stadium. I think everybody recognizes what a beautiful stadium this is," Wingert said. "I think it’s really great for our team and for the future."

The next time you can cheer on the Red Storm at the friendly confines of Belson Stadium are this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when they welcome the Providence Friars.

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