Shady Side Academy has announced The Gene Deal Fields project, a transformative $1.75 million athletic facilities initiative that will honor the extraordinary legacy of longtime SSA coach and Director of Athletics Gene Deal.
In partnership with Strada LLC, a Pittsburgh-based design firm, Shady Side will turn the lower grass athletic fields on the Senior School campus into a state-of-the-art outdoor sports complex featuring a number of critical enhancements, highlighted by a multi-use turf field lined for lacrosse, soccer, baseball, softball and field hockey. The project will include a dramatically improved spectator experience, including a new grandstand, viewing pavilion and terrace, a new scoreboard, and upgraded landscaping and walkways. There will also be new team dugouts and a batting tunnel for baseball and softball. In addition, the project will feature innovative drainage and storm management systems.
Enhanced Utility & Durability
With nearly 700 students enrolled in the SSA Middle and Senior Schools and only one turf field supporting numerous athletic teams, first-rate field space is currently at a premium at Shady Side. This results in many teams having to play or practice on grass fields that are often unplayable due to adverse weather conditions, poor drainage, and wear and tear from a high volume of use. The Gene Deal Fields will be all-weather, all-season and durable enough to withstand constant use year-round, enabling more SSA teams the daily opportunity to develop their skills and compete.
Upgraded Spectator Experience and Community Space
The Gene Deal Fields will feature meaningful enhancements for spectators, significantly improving upon the rickety wooden bleachers that currently overlook the lower fields. At the moment, most fans must bring their own chairs or stand on the hillside while watching games. A new grandstand, terrace and pavilion will not only improve the spectator experience but also provide an outdoor gathering space conducive to events such as Homecoming tailgates, admissions open houses, and parent socials.
Increased Community Engagement & Visibility
The Gene Deal Fields will enable Shady Side to increase engagement with surrounding communities by making the facility available to youth, recreational and nonprofit organizations when not in use by SSA teams. Shady Side will also be able to host WPIAL and PIAA playoffs at this facility, something that will increase the Academy's visibility and community partnerships.
While upfront base preparation of a newly sodded grass field is less costly than the installation of a multi-use turf field, the significant cost savings from turf over a period of years make it a much more financially sustainable option. Additionally, year-round rentals of the facility will provide auxiliary revenue to the Academy.
Honoring Gene Deal
Hired in 1982 and appointed as SSA's fifth athletic director in 1990, Gene Deal has been a beloved figure at Shady Side for more than three decades. He played a central role in the Academy's 1992 decision to rejoin the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL). This was a bold, visionary move that meaningfully changed the face of SSA's athletic program, increasing its visibility and providing its teams with important competitive balance. Under Deal's leadership, Shady Side has won 64 WPIAL titles, four WIHLMA titles and 15 PIAA state championships in 18 different boys' and girls' sports since 1993. At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, Deal will step down after 31 years as AD to assume a new role as an alumni engagement officer at SSA.
"Gene Deal is a marvel, a true community steward and someone who has been fiercely loyal to Shady Side students and families for four decades," said SSA President Bart Griffith '93. "This project is a fitting testament to his legacy of 'kids first' leadership and the meaningful difference he has made in the lives of so many, both at SSA and beyond."
"It is a wonderful gift and indeed an honor to be remembered by Shady Side families, parents, students and alumni in this kind way," said Deal. "I did not do any of this alone, and I need to thank so many people who have had a great influence on my life here at SSA. I am happy to leave a lasting legacy in the form of new athletic fields at Shady Side Academy, and I am truly thankful for the generous donations from families and friends to this project. Shady Side has given so much to my family and me over the years. I hope these fields will be enjoyed and appreciated by all future Bulldogs."
Timeline, Cost & Funding
Construction of the Gene Deal Fields is tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2021, with the goal of having the fields ready in time for the fall 2021 season. The $1.75 million project is being funded entirely by donations. Thanks to a generous lead gift from the DSF Charitable Foundation and additional major gifts from a range of SSA community members, to date more than $1 million has been raised in gifts and commitments.
You can make a gift online in support of the Gene Deal Fields, or for major gift and naming opportunities, please contact Dr. Allison Saras at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-968-3077 or Jamie Scott '98 at email@example.com or 412-968-3032.