At the Top of Her Game

Ashley Nedza Jones, RA, grew up playing Little League in rural Virginia. “That’s all there was to do in Louisa County back then: baseball for boys and softball for girls,” Ashley says. “I guess there was basketball, too, but I was never tall enough for that.”


As a varsity athlete in high school, she received a scholarship offer but turned it down to study architecture at Virginia Tech. “My dad was an engineer, so growing up, I always liked the thought of working in an office,” Ashley says. “I was also really interested in art, so this was a way for me to blend art and engineering.”

But she stayed passionate about sports and fitness. As a SEAL Team Physical Training Instructor, she still gets the chance to compete, which she loves, and she enjoys watching everything from football and baseball to golf and swimming.

The opportunity to work on any sports architecture project excites her, but she was especially proud to be on the design team for Liberty University’s new 30,000-square-foot softball stadium, set to debut this spring. “Oh, I was on board,” Ashley says. “Especially when they started talking about ‘Dot-this’ and ‘Dot-that.’ There’s only one Dot in softball.”

That would be Dot Richardson, the two-time Olympic gold medalist who hit the game-winning home run at the ’96 Games and was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame ten years later. Liberty hired Dot in 2013 as the new head coach of the Flames.

“You have to understand, I had her poster on my wall as a kid,” Ashley says. “She had a whole line of gloves and bats; I had one of each.” When Ashley had the chance to meet Dot after a design meeting, she was star-struck. “I just had this huge smile on my face,” she says. “It ranks right up there with the time Justin Timberlake walked by me. Actually, it was better.”

As the game plan for the design formed, Ashley’s background as a player made her a better architect. “I know the uses of these spaces,” she says. “I know what it’s like to come in from the dugout and need a place to kick the mud off your shoes. I know that the coaches to need room to huddle up and strategize. So I was able to pick up on the flow of the space really easily.”

The design team connected with the owner and coaching staff right off the bat—in part, Ashley says, because they worked to be good listeners. “That’s such an important part of this job. Whether you’re a team of designers or a team of players, if you’re going to win, you have to know how to listen.”

For Ashley, the stadium is a small milestone in her career. “I felt a sense of ownership,” she says. “I got to call the trainer, for example, and do the space planning for that area.” But on a deeper level, she connected with the spirit of the project.

“People will feel all kinds of emotions in this place,” Ashley says. “Someone will hit their first homerun here. Someone will get hurt here. Someone will win here, and someone will suffer a crushing defeat here. What will happen in that stadium is something I can relate to.”


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