This year, many NCAA Division I Baseball programs are changing features within their facilities to improve the player and fan experience. While these upgrades are nowhere near as extensive as the renovations we covered last week, they offer plenty of state-of-the-art features, including new videoboards, fields, and administrative buildings.
In the final part of Ballpark Digest’s college ballpark preview (here is the first part), we will look at some of the more notable upgrades around the college baseball landscape. Many of these projects represent another piece in continual investment in college baseball, but a few could be the start to larger projects.
Leading off part two is the University of Arkansas, which is adding a new videoboard to Baum Stadium (shown above). Razorback fans will get a clear look at the action, as the new LED board measures at 25 foot by 71 foot, a considerable upgrade from the 8 foot by 14.5 foot screen that was in place before this year. The board will span 1,775 square feet, making it one of the largest in Division I Baseball.
A similar project is in the works at Texas Tech, which is making two major changes to Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park. The Red Raiders have installed a new videoboard, a 48 foot by 22 foot structure that was previously used at Jones AT&T Stadium. In a change aimed at altering the player experience, the field has been completely replaced, as the Red Raiders will now play on a FieldTurf surface. Texas Tech has upped the ante with its baseball facility in recent years, with an upgrade that included overhauled seating options and a new press box having taken place in 2012.
Oregon State University is also taking an aggressive step to upgrade its technology. Goss Stadium will now feature a 26-foot by 50-foot videoboard, which is expected to be the largest in the PAC 12. The Beavers have been active when it comes to facility enhancements in recent years, as the videoboard is just the latest in a long line of improvements that have included expanded clubhouse and lounge space, a playing surface replacement, and seating upgrades.
New videoboards will be found at several other colleges this year, including the University of Houston, which has installed a 1,500 square feet Daktronics board at Cougar Field. The Cougars have also set plans to construct a two story, 20,645 square foot clubhouse and administrative building down the third base line—the structure is being planned and will likely open before a future season.
The TCU Horned Frogs are continuing to spruce up their operations at Lupton Field. This season will mark the first for a new videoboard, but that is not even the biggest piece to be added to the facility. Last year, the Horned Frogs unveiled plans for $7.5 million facility that will house several state-of-the-art features, such as a new clubhouse, medicine center, lounge, and office space. Lupton Field has received its fair share of upgrades over the last several years, with previous improvements largely centered on expansion and other enhancements to the fan experience.
Projects similar to the one undertaken by TCU will be seen throughout college baseball. The University of Las Vegas Nevada Rebels (UNLV) are adding the two-story Anthony and Lyndy Marnell III Baseball Clubhouse, which will include training and administrative areas as well as a patio that provides a view of the action. UNLV is adding the $2.5 million structure down the right field line at Earl E. Wilson Stadium.
The University of Miami at Ohio Redhawks added to this trend by building the Jim Hayden Baseball Center, a $3 million structure that provides new clubhouse and meeting space, as well as exhibits that honor the team’s history. The Red Hawks held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the building last fall, making this its first season of use.
This season will also bring about several enhanced playing fields. The Sam Houston Bearkats have installed a brand new AstroTurf field at Don Sanders Stadium. This surface will go beyond the norm for turf fields: everything, including the pitcher’s mound, will be made of AstroTurf.
Building off its success over the past few seasons, the University of Maryland is upping its baseball experience through a series of upgrades to Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, which will now feature a fully synthetic-turf field. In addition, the Terps are upgrading both of the stadium’s bullpens and constructing a new outfield wall.
A new turf surface is also being put into place at J. C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park Stadium, home of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have been active in upgrading the stadium—which first opened in 1971—over the past several seasons, with the long list of improvements including a new clubhouse and lounge area that was constructed just before the 2014 campaign.
Synthetic turf is popular at the college level for several areas, as it can be easier to maintain, make the facility more usable for other events, and sustain weather conditions of all kinds. In some instances, however, programs have taken additional steps to make the surface more conducive to the climate.
The latest team to jump aboard that trend is the Michigan State Spartans. Starting this season, the Spartans will play their home games on a heated field. McLane Stadium, along with softball’s Secchia Stadium, has been given a heating system that was installed by Heating Solutions International. In completing the project, the Spartans are hoping to ease maintenance and to have a reduction in early-season cancellations.
The final upgrade to preview comes from Mississippi State University, which will have a new batting cage, thanks to Bulldog alum and current Texas Ranger, Mitch Moreland. Late last summer, Moreland donated $100,000 to the program for the construction of an indoor batting cage at Dudy Noble Field. The cages will bear Moreland’s name.
Though significant in their own right, the batting cages are the beginning of what the Bulldogs are hoping will be a new era at Dudy Noble Field. Since August 2014, the Bulldogs have been working on a $40 million master plan that will completely overhaul the facility for fans and players alike. The program is still in the process of raising money for the new Dudy Noble Field, which would include, among other amenities, new suite and premium seating options, upgraded clubhouses, and a modern concourse.
Even as college baseball waits for the Dudy Noble Field plan to come to fruition, there is plenty of reason for fans and players to look forward to the changes that are here for 2016.