New stadium creates optimism for Westminster softball program

This fall, Westminster introduced a new softball field to its athletic community: Kathie Capano Bekkers “KCB” Stadium. Centered in the middle of the Turner athletic complex with stadium row seating and a press box, KCB Stadium creates a welcoming environment for the BatCats.

“I think the biggest thing is the exposure it gets,” assistant softball coach Layne MacLoughlin said. “Being in proximity to things builds a sense of community. It will make more people want to play softball.”

The visibility is great for the BatCats. Once tucked away by the Lower School, their field is now in the center of campus. Just a short walk away from the concession stands or Turner gym, the proximity provides a dynamic flow. In contrast to its previous location, KCB Stadium creates a welcoming environment and allows everyone to stop by after school or practices. 

“We saw it in those first couple of games. The bleachers were packed, and you had some students finishing up their practice and they stopped to watch a couple of innings, you had family members on the way to their cars stop and watch, so I think it’s working great,” said director of athletics Tim Downes. 

Players and coaches alike enjoy the new location of the field and attention it receives; the new location drastically increases visibility. “The old location, the field was great, the setting was really neat, but there were a lot of people that didn’t know we had a softball team. And when you all put in the work that you do, the recognition matters,” said Downes.

“The new location makes it a lot easier for students to come to our games and gives softball the attention we didn’t have before,” sophomore BatCat Helen Slawson said.

KCB Stadium’s positive impact on the softball program will only continue to grow.

Seated in the middle of the athletic complex, the new field fits right in. Not only does it more efficiently utilize the space, but it also enhances the appearance of the complex, and in tandem, the softball program. 

“The field by the Lower School has served us well but having the stadium by the football field is incredible,” junior Grace Carabillo said, “It shows how the softball program is doing well and the field finally reflects that.”

The field also creates a new look for the softball team; although the team has always worked extremely hard, a field that exhibits that same dedication and hard work recognizes the softball program on a more competitive level. 

“When visitors come to campus and see those spaces, it talks about the value of athletics at Westminster,” said Downes. 

While the stadium is dedicated to Kathie Capano Bekkers and her legacy, the field is still dedicated to Mildred Neal Scott. Generous donations from John Bekkers, the Black family, softball alums, and other philanthropic gifts have allowed the stadium to become possible. 

“Seeing the evolution of all other athletics, I began asking the question: What are we going to do with softball? They said it wasn’t in the budget so I asked ‘What’s it going to take?’ and that’s where we are now,” said Bekkers. 

In January 2020, Institutional Advancement began forming a plan for support and possible naming opportunities. The process of meeting with prospective philanthropic partners lasted from spring 2020 to summer 2021. 

“The Office for Institutional Advancement built a case for support to help prospective donors understand the vision for the softball stadium, the impact of the stadium on the softball program and the school, and what Westminster would be able to accomplish with the donors’ philanthropic support,” said Lauren Flores, associate vice president for institutional advancement. 

The process of securing philanthropic donors is a tedious task, but one well done by the Office of Institutional Advancement. After securing five generous philanthropic gifts, and receiving commitments for at least half of the overall stadium cost, construction began in preparation for the fall 2021 season. 

“The talk of construction on the new stadium had been surfacing for around five years now, and we finally had a chance to act upon it,” said assistant coach Brent McGuire. 

The construction of the football stadium opened a perfect opportunity for the new softball stadium. “We’ve talked about doing something different about softball the past four or five years,” said Downes. “The construction on the stadium gave us a really big opportunity to move the field down there.”

Aside from students and coaches, the new field also has a positive impact on the field maintenance crew.

“Now we can drag it without the kids getting on it, mow it about three times a week, and then game prep the field,” said grounds and athletic field manager Bret Thatcher. “We can start here in the morning, but on the old field we had Lower School students out there all day. … One time I even had students throwing rocks at my mower.” 

  “Playing on the field by Lower School for three years felt like home, but this new field is going to change the softball program,” senior Sydney Moore said.

Although the old field was home to all, the new stadium puts softball in a well-deserved new light. 

“I’m thankful for the Bekker family and for everything they gave to the new stadium,” freshman Issy Banks said. “I think it’s really going to make an impact on the softball program for years to come.”