Bethel Announces Historic Upgrades to Athletics Facilities

The Called to More campaign is poised to transform Bethel athletics. Bethel reached a milestone to move forward on key facilities upgrades at Royal Stadium, including adding a track and multiuse artificial turf on the field. All Bethel community members and friends are invited to a groundbreaking at the stadium from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on May 17.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

May 04, 2021 | 3 p.m.

Royal Stadium

Architectural renderings show what a renovated Royal Stadium will look like after major renovations through Bethel’s Called to More campaign. Work kicks off this spring with the addition of a nine-lane outdoor track, upgrades to the throws areas for track and field, and multiuse artificial turf on the football field. In the future, Bethel plans to raise money to add a new press box and lights to Royal Stadium and to build an additional turf practice field.

The Called to More campaign is poised to forever transform Bethel athletics.

The university will soon begin work at Royal Stadium to build Bethel’s first-ever outdoor track; add new jump, vault, and throws areas for track and field; and install multiuse artificial turf on the football field. This historic work will allow Bethel’s track and field programs to host outdoor track meets, improve the game day experience for the football team and fans, and provide vital practice facilities where athletes can train and reach their potential. “Our athletics culture and atmosphere are second to none. Now, we’re committing to providing facilities that keep pace with the MIAC and Midwest,” says Bob Bjorklund, who is retiring as director of athletics later this month.

Bethel will hold a groundbreaking ceremony from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on May 17 at Royal Stadium. All community members—students, donors, alumni, parents, prospective students and parents, employees, and friends—are invited to celebrate the upgrades, along with Bjorklund’s retirement.

Through the work and gifts of community members and generous donors, Bethel met a $4 million campaign goal to begin work on key facilities upgrades and additions. "As an athlete, it shows that we are doing something right as we represent our school and that the community around us wants us to succeed just as much as we do," says Kelsie Sealock ’23, who competes on the women's track and field team. "I am beyond thankful for all the donors that have contributed to this new facility."

Incoming Director of Athletics Greg Peterson ’92 says the project sends a powerful message to current and future Royals. “These renovations are a tangible example of our commitment to our student-athletes,” he says. And the upgrades will significantly affect athletes’ performance and preparation. As Bethel's nationally recognized track and field program continues its ascent, many on campus are excited that Bethel will be able to host its first track and field meet—as well as regional and national events. But Head Coach Andrew Rock is equally excited that the renovations will provide practice space for a large roster of track and field athletes through a long season. “The opportunity to have our own facility to meet the demands of the program is such an important step for the future,” Rock says. “We will be able to train and compete in a first-class facility, and that is truly what our athletes are so excited about.”

Royal Stadium

The addition of a nine-lane track will allow Bethel to host home track and field meets for the first time, as well as regional and national events. Though not yet scheduled, the first meet will likely happen in spring 2022. “That will be such an exciting and memorable day for our teams, administrators, coaches, and all who helped make this possible,” Head Track and Field Coach Andrew Rock says.

To Head Football Coach Steve Johnson, a turf field in Royal Stadium will allow his team to practice and host games deep into November as they continue their success and seek NCAA playoff runs. A key component is consistency, which is why many football programs in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) are converting to turf. In the past, coaches have had to discuss if it’s safe to play and practice due to inclement weather. “Having turf allows teams to practice without weather affecting the surface in any big way,” Peterson says. And more support is still needed for future upgrades. Bethel is seeking support to build an additional turf practice field, which would add greatly needed space. Currently, men's soccer, women's soccer, and softball all share the same practice facility, which often results in a tight practice schedule that leads to conflicts with meal times and night classes. “The additional field will have a huge impact on other sports programs and our campus activities in amazing ways,” Peterson says.

Along with the turf practice field, the next campaign phase for athletics will raise $1.5 million to add lights and a new press box to Royal Stadium. The press box will add space for coaches to operate more efficiently and allow Bethel to offer a more professional gameday experience. The lights will increase usage at Royal Stadium and allow for night events on the field. The upgraded facilities will also create opportunities to host events, including summer camps, tournaments, and more.

“I have such excitement for the future of Bethel and Bethel athletics! My hope is that this is just the beginning of constant growth and progress.”

— Director of Athletics Greg Peterson ’92

The athletics upgrades are all part of Bethel’s mission to help student-athletes transform not just on the field and track, but as women and men. “I believe with my whole heart that what makes Bethel athletics special is the unabashed commitment to the mission of Bethel,” says Peterson, who served more than 20 years as an assistant football coach. Bethel’s culture, he says, is the most important part of the athletics department’s recruiting message since there is rich potential for transformational growth. That rings true with current and former athletes. While they are excited about the upgrades, Bethel’s culture is what truly stands out. During campaign efforts, Scott Kirchoff ’03, S’18 shared the story of how Bethel transformed his life. After coming to Bethel without a strong faith background, he came to Christ through the football program and a group of friends he met at Bethel. “My story is not unique,” he says. “Every year, we have guys that are in the same exact category.” Kirchoff, a former Bethel assistant football coach, is now a pastor at Eagle Book Church’s Lino Lakes, Minnesota, campus.

Sealock says competing on Bethel’s track and field team gives her the ability to run in a manner that glorifies Christ. “The culture is so unique specifically to our team, as our teammates care and support each other in practice, meets, and throughout life circumstances,” she says. Similarly, Jaran Roste ’21 says the best part of the football program is being surrounded by people who will push him to be the best version of himself.

“In our program, it goes beyond football. In fact, more often than not, Bethel football has nothing to do with football at all. It's about becoming the best husband you can be. The best father you can be. The best sibling you can be. The best friend you can be. What happens on the field takes care of itself, but it happens because of the love we all share for each other and the Lord.”

— Jaran Roste ’21
Royal Stadium

As one of the priorities of Bethel’s Called to More campaign, renovations to Royal Stadium will transform Bethel athletics. The upgrades—including future plans to add a turf practice field—will provide state-of-art facilities for athletes to compete, practice, and reach their potential.

Join us for the Royal Stadium groundbreaking on May 17.

The community celebration from 1:30 to 3 p.m. will feature the sights and sounds of game day with concessions, music, games, and more! So wear your favorite Royals apparel. Together, we’ll launch the first phase of the Called to More athletics campaign and recognize the retirement of Director of Athletics Bob Bjorklund.

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