UC Field

Former UC President Ed Welch talks to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin before the official opening of the new UC field named in Welch’s honor Saturday.

Ed Welch won’t have to go far to watch University of Charleston teams play at the newly minted sports complex that bears his name.

Heck, he lives just around the corner of the soccer and lacrosse field.

“I think they’ll give me a ticket so I can get in,’’ said Welch, who retired in June 2017 after 29 years as UC president.

Opening ceremonies were held Saturday evening for UC’s $5 million Welch Athletic Complex, which houses four of the school’s sports teams. Gleaming artificial turf surfaces cover the playing facilities at SEGRA Field, home to the baseball team, and the adjoining Elliot Field, where the men’s and women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams will compete.

The evening began with free youth sports clinics, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the pitcher’s mound at SEGRA Field, then a picnic and a men’s soccer match between UC and Pikeville at Elliot Field.

The list of dignitaries on hand included U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin and Mountain East Conference Commissioner Reid Amos. Current UC President Martin Roth served as the master of ceremonies, and marveled at how quickly the project was completed.

“We have had a long, hot, dry summer,’’ Roth said, “but one of the advantages is that this complex, which began construction in April, was finished in September. Terrific timeline. Our friends at Pray Construction did a terrific job getting the project done so that we could be out here competing with our great soccer teams, and our baseball and lacrosse teams could be able to do their fall practices.’’

The complex, while providing practice and game fields for 170 UC athletes, also includes concessions, bleachers, locker rooms, improved lighting and a scoreboard. It sprang up on the same location as Triana Field, UC’s former baseball facility.

“As somebody who was brought up in this community,’’ Capito said, “I’ve watched this field over the years and to come by now and see the incredible — not just the beauty — but the utilitarian purpose of this. It’s great for the soccer, baseball, lacrosse teams, and what a great tribute to Ed Welch and Janet Welch.’’

Manchin praised Ed Welch for the array of accomplisments during his tenure as UC president, including the Wehrle Innovation Center, a new basketball arena that debuted in December of 2016.

“The vision that Dr. Ed Welch had is what you see today,’’ Manchin said. “The international flavor that we have was because of his vision. Basically, all the new things you see going up, this operation here, the Wehrle Center, all of these things here are what he inspired. We’re just glad that we had you for 29 years.’’

Though retired, Welch isn’t expecting to stray far from campus. In fact, he and his wife, Janet, live in a house just steps away from the new complex.

“The house is right there,’’ Ed Welch said, pointing to a roof across the street from Elliot Field. “I think I’m going to be able to see a lot of games because we’re right next door, and I get to come in the back fence. It’s going to be great to see the kids out here. You get to look out the window in the little office I have to watch them practice.

It’s exciting to have it here, it really is. It’s so great for the student-athletes, and that’s what it’s all about, so that they have a quality experience while they’re at the University of Charleston.’’

Welch admitted that, in addition to the pluses, there were a few minuses in being so close to the action during the project’s initial phases.

“I was giving them a hard time during construction,’’ he said with a smile. “They were starting at about 5:30 in the morning, and I found out that there are no forward gears on equipment at 5:30 in the morning.

“But they were committed, and it was great. The neighbors have been really good. Some of them had more excitement than usual during the construction phase.’’

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.