Joe Boylan is full of stories. His pride shows when he recounts how Loyola hosted the 2005 men’s golf championship, the smallest school ever to host an NCAA championship by itself. He’ll tell you how Greyhounds men’s lacrosse dominated in the 1990s and how, after the women’s basketball team won the conference championship in 1994, Men’s Basketball Coach Skip Prosser walked by the trophy and said, “We’re getting that tomorrow night.” And they did, with a trip to the NCAA Tournament to boot.
Boylan has been the University’s director of athletics since 1991, and this day promises to add another round of stories to his repertoire. He roams the grounds of a hilltop stadium that is the culmination of a vision years in the making. Unfazed by the blistering winds and nearly constant rain, he watches the men’s lacrosse team warm up for its first match on the pristine turf of the new home field. On another field to the south, the Loyola club rugby team is deep into a routine thrashing of a visiting opponent. Children scamper about with balloon-animal hats twisted in the shape of greyhounds, and the towering stands fill with energized students come to witness the debut of Loyola’s newest athletics crown jewel.
Today is opening day for the Ridley Athletic Complex.
Complete after four years of construction, the $62-million Reverend Harold Ridley, S.J., Athletic Complex is named in honor of Loyola’s 23rd president, at the request of the anonymous donor who contributed $5 million to the project—the largest individual gift in University history. It was Fr. Ridley who more than 10 years ago first envisioned a state-of-the-art athletic complex to house the University’s men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse programs. The Ridley Athletic Complex features a 6,000-seat grandstand; spacious locker rooms; a cavernous weight room; coaches’ offices; team meeting rooms; press, presidential, and VIP boxes; and sweeping views of Baltimore. The complex is home to J. Richard Awalt Field, for soccer and lacrosse matches, as well as Sean Lugano Memorial Field, which offers expanded opportunities for club and intramural sports while providing a permanent home for the storied Loyola rugby club. It is what Boylan and others at the University would call a statement of intent for Loyola athletics.
“Jesuit schools have always taken the role of athletics very seriously, the ways it brings about the discipline of the body, how it develops leadership and builds team spirit, not just for the teams themselves, but for the whole student body,” said Loyola President Brian Linnane, S.J.
Loyola’s dedication to athletics has resulted in a résumé of success in keeping with its goal of becoming the leading Catholic comprehensive university in the nation. In fact, the University’s strategic plan counts the enhancement of Greyhounds athletics among its core initiatives, with the Ridley Athletic Complex a key element of that effort.