Thanks to a $3.5 million commitment from Union Bank & Trust, the home of the Virginia Tech Hokies is now known as English Field at Union Park.
As part of the 10-year agreement, the Richmond-based bank will not only get its name placed on the park—the playing surface keeps the original English Field moniker—but will also help finance future renovations. English Field first opened in 1989, and the Hokies feel that upgrades to both fan and player amenities will be needed to keep the program competitive in the ACC.
The main piece for the player amenities would be a new clubhouse. On the fan experience side, there are numerous concepts being considered, including a new main entrance, new scoreboard, seating bowl upgrades, additional premium and group spaces, plus overhauled concessions and restrooms. When adding in other enhancements, including a new press box, Virginia Tech believes that it will spend in the range of $10 to $18 million on the renovation, according to the Roanoke Times. However, some questions remain unanswered for now, as Virginia Tech has not selected an architectural or construction firm for the project.
Additional funds would be obtained through fundraising and debt service. The naming rights deal, however, gives the university a start on the project.
“We’re deeply grateful for Union’s generosity and support of our baseball program – a program that competes in one of the nation’s premier conferences and develops student athletes who also excel in academics, and leadership,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said in a press statement. “We’re proud to have Union’s name on our stadium. Union and Virginia Tech are committed to serving our communities, and to shared values, such as knowledge, integrity, trust, and teamwork. This support assists an outstanding sports team as it competes and connects with our community, alumni, and friends in the spirit of our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).”
“Baseball has brought communities together for more than 100 years,” said G. William Beale, president and chief executive officer of Union Bankshares Corporation – the holding company for Union Bank & Trust. “With similar missions of serving our communities, Union is proud to support the efforts of Virginia Tech in building a first-class baseball stadium that will enhance both the fan and team experience. The improvements to English Field at Union Park provide the opportunity for the facility to become not just a baseball stadium, but a place where the community comes together to enjoy baseball or other activities throughout the year. Having Union’s name associated with the revitalized park is a distinct honor for the largest community bank headquartered in Virginia.”
Also noted in the Roanoke Times report is the current timeline. Some renovations would begin after this season, with the full project being complete in time for the 2018 season. This would enable the Hokies to continue playing at English Field at Union Park throughout the construction process. There is a precedent in college baseball for a program seeking a temporary facility during a major ballpark renovation—the best example in recent years is the University of Alabama, which relocated to Hoover Met for 2015 while a $42.5 million overhaul to Sewell-Thomas Stadium was completed—but it appears for now that the Hokies will avoid a short-term move.
Once the renovations are complete, the Hokies envision English Field at Union Park as a year-round destination that serves not only the Virginia Tech campus, but the Blacksburg community at large. Throughout the year, the ballpark would host tournaments and clinics, with the new concession and premium areas allowing for non-baseball events to take place at the facility.
“Virginia Tech is thrilled to partner with Union to create a contemporary, yet traditional baseball park in Blacksburg,” said Whit Babcock, the university’s director of athletics. “We share Union’s vision of developing a community focal point where friends and families can gather to cheer on the Hokies and come together on a year-round basis. This modernization and upgrade strengthens a venue and a field that was named in honor of the legacy of the late E.R. “Red” English and his wife, Ruth, who were longtime benefactors of Tech Athletics. The next generation of English Field at Union Park will be one that all Hokies will be proud of for many years to come, and that will well position our baseball program to compete among the ACC and national elite.”
Photo of English Field at Union Park courtesy of the Virginia Tech Hokies.