After two decades, Duke Childs set for revamp

Upgrades to include new facility for teams including locker rooms, bathrooms



The $5.3 million renovation to upgrade water retention among other additions at Duke Childs Field is set to be completed by early 2024

The Duke Childs fields, home to New Trier’s baseball and softball teams, are currently undergoing a $5.3 million renovation to upgrade water retention and make many other additions. The project is set to be completed by early 2024.

Currently, after heavy rain, water drains from the lagoon toward Duke Childs. This causes flooding that can last for multiple days, making the fields unplayable. The changes will allow for more than 4.6 million gallons of stormwater to be stored under the school-owned land. 

Baseball Varsity Head Coach Mike Napoleon believes that the changes will make a big impact.

In June 2020, New Trier reached an agreement with the Village of Winnetka to make improvements to Duke Childs, which has not been renovated in nearly two decades. 

[The upgrades] will increase the amount of times that we’re able to play on the fields during the springtime. I think they’ll benefit our teams immensely

— Athletic Director Augie Fontenetta

“I think it’s much needed,” said Napoleon. He also noted that people have often referred to the fields as “Lake Duke” in the spring due to all the sitting water.

Sophomore John Walther, who played on the freshman team this past spring, has also experienced problems with the fields.

“Even if there was rain the day before, the water was still there the next day and it was really hard to play games,” said Walther. “We had many games canceled due to it.”

Augie Fontanetta, New Trier’s athletic director, said that the addition of storage tanks will help to mitigate the flooding moving forward. 

“[The upgrades] will increase the amount of times that we’re able to play on the fields during the springtime,” said Fontanetta. “I think they’ll benefit our teams immensely.”

Another important part of the project is the addition of 50-foot nets at the varsity baseball field to protect people from errant foul balls.

“We’ve been pushing for those nets since 2010,” said Napoleon. “There’s been cars that have gotten hit. It’s very dangerous.”

Fontanetta agreed that the risk of foul balls has created problems, which the new nets and parking will help to mitigate.

“Most people are reluctant to park there because of the balls,” Fontanetta said. 

A proposal involving the addition of the nets was previously rejected by the Village of Winnetka, though this time, the proposal went through.

“I think we went in with a little bit better plan, not just kind of pushing this on [the village],” Napoleon explained.

“It was just good timing,” said Fontanetta. “We had a really good relationship with the Village of Winnetka when they were going through the process.”

The upgrades will include a new facility for the teams, featuring locker rooms, bathrooms, and more space for athletes. 

“That’s going to be one of my favorite parts of this whole thing,” said Napoleon. 

Another benefit of the new building is that there will be spaces for both the baseball and softball teams.

“It’s going to provide equitable facilities for the boys and girls,” Fontanetta said.

The Athletic Department is also looking to add turf infields to the existing baseball and softball fields. In coordination with the New Trier Educational Foundation, their goal is to raise an estimated $634,000 for the turf additions.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Liz Mayer, the foundation’s executive director. “The feedback I’ve heard has been very positive.”

Currently, around $250,000 has been raised toward these efforts. A fundraising event on campus is scheduled for Dec. 11 in the Cornog Auditorium, Napoleon said, targeting alumni and current New Trier families. 

“The goal is to hit that fundraising mark by the end of this academic year,” said Mayer. “It’s certainly doable.”

Walther is also encouraged by the changes being made.

“I’m very excited about the renovation and how it will better the facilities and fields at Duke Childs,” he said.

Napoleon said that the last time the fields underwent any significant changes was in 2003 when dugouts were added and the infields were redone. After nearly two decades, it was time for a change.

“It’s kind of one of those things that I feel, because we’re off campus, it always gets on the back burner for everybody,” he said.

The baseball and softball teams will play on the current fields this coming spring, with construction on the fields set to begin in June, according to Napoleon. While the summer baseball will need to take place at a different location, the spring season will not be affected by the construction. 

“I’m just happy that the seniors get to play on their home field this spring,” Napoleon said.

He emphasized the importance of the changes as well.

“It’s going to be really nice.”