Henni Kantor Kessler and John H. Kessler Stadium officially opened its doors to the public on Sept. 2 for the University football team’s first home game of the season against Lafayette College.
The state of the art $16 million dollar stadium has become the newest athletic home for various University athletic teams, including football, track and field, and lacrosse.
The stadium, which started out as nothing more than a set of plans, was approved by the borough of West Long Branch zoning board in September of 2013. With demolition and construction officially beginning in the Fall semester of 2016, students said goodbye to the field at the annual Homecoming game, but were excited to see the results and completion of the project in the following ten months.
Patricia Swannack, Vice President of Administrative Services said, “We were able to begin construction of Kessler Stadium right after the football season ended last year. We hoped that by doing so we could get ahead of the schedule which we did, however, if you recall we had a really rainy spring so we lost the time we had achieved by starting early but at least we were not behind.”
The new facility has come a long way from its original state as Kessler Field. Built in 1993, the field served as the home base for the University’s first football season and has been the location for every home game since.
The stadium’s namesake is thanks to Monmouth alumni, Henni Kantor Kessler and John H. Kessler, who gifted Monmouth with a substantial donation toward the stadium project.
The Kesslers were the original donors to the Kessler Field, and were actively involved with Monmouth athletics during their time at the University.
University Athletics Director Marilyn McNeil has been involved in the stadium’s creation every step of the way. McNeil explains that the new facility is an enormous step up from its original.
McNeil said that the school needed a facility as great as its team, and with the team’s move to the Big South Conference, the new stadium has definitely played a role in improving Monmouth’s place in the world of college athletics. “Improving was always the plan and we will continue doing so,” she said.
Monmouth’s place in the world of college athletics.
“Improving was always the plan and we will continue doing so,” she said.
“The former stadium did not have any redeeming values. It was not comfortable, and the facility was not good for recruiting potential student athletes,” McNeil said.
She went on to explain that the general student body had no association with the old field, and often there was not enough seating space for fans.
She continued, “We want the fans to come out to the games and support their team. We wanted a dedicated space for students and families to come and say ‘Let’s go!,’ because this should be a fun place to be. The new stadium can now be a source of pride, which we didn’t have before. We want to make everything at this school a source of pride.”
Upgrades with the arrival of the stadium include seating for over 4,200, which stretches from one end zone to the other, bathrooms, permanent concession stands, a University store, a press box, and a ticket office.
In addition to the stadium, a new scoreboard will be arriving hopefully before this year’s Homecoming game.
Head football coach Kevin Callahan could not have been more pleased with the facility, and what it has done for his team.
“The stadium is excellent; it is really something. It is a great venue for fans and students to come out and support their team,” he said. “It was needed for quite some time and now we have a facility that is on par with our opponents’. The Monmouth fans are outstanding, our players enjoy having a great crowd come and watch them.
Callahan clarified that there was not enough seating and few amenities, which made it difficult for fans to come enjoy themselves. “To have all of those things now just makes coming to the games a better experience,” Callahan continued.
Mike Basile, a senior criminal justice student and safety on the football team, said, “I love the new stadium, it’s really great. It shows how far the program has come, and it’s definitely a better experience for the fans.”
Basile claimed that seeing people in the stands in the building makes it feel more like the college experience.
“You see more people being out there, it feels like the college experience,” he said.
Feeling that experience and energy has been the best feeling for Reggie White Jr., a senior health studies student and receiver on the football team.
White said, “We’ve been waiting a long time for the stadium and just, thank you to everyone who helped make this a reality. It’s really great to have the opportunity to play in it in front of our fans.”
The next game played at Kessler Stadium will be the homecoming game against Liberty University’s the Liberty Flames on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 1:00 p.m.
PHOTO COURTESY of Karlee Sell
PHOTO TAKEN by Courtney Buell