Among major NCAA Division I baseball programs, there will be two very significant facility developments in 2019. The University of Kentucky is preparing to open a new ballpark, while Mississippi State University will unveil a completely renovated Dudy Noble Field.
Both programs have announced opening dates at their respective ballparks, giving fans the opportunity to look forward to the debut of two prominent venues in the coming months. Below is an overview of the pair of opening days, starting with Dudy Noble Field before delving into Kentucky Proud Park—Kentucky’s new ballpark.
Dudy Noble Field, February 15
The final results of a multi-phase, $55 million renovation to Dudy Noble Field will be revealed February 15, when Mississippi State hosts Youngstown State to kick off a three-game weekend series. Additions such as new lower-level seating and a modernized Left Field Lounge were completed prior to the 2018 season, but additional construction is leading to even more changes for 2019. This season, Dudy Noble Field will debut new upper-level seating, along with improved player facilities, and new premium areas. In addition, 2019 will bring the opening of the Left Field Lofts—a building with apartment-style units located beyond the left field wall.
Mississippi State baseball has used the site of Dudy Noble Field since 1967, but the facility itself has undergone several changes over the years, including the addition of a new grandstand that was completed in the 1980’s. However, the latest renovation—which adds modern fan amenities like premium areas and a 360-degree concourse—is perhaps its most elaborate to date.
That is why the ballpark’s first game in 2019 is expected to attract considerable attention, and Mississippi State will likely commemorate the renovation’s completion in grand fashion. In fact, Mississippi State announced in December that opening weekend at Dudy Noble Field will include “multiple ceremonies surrounding the opening of college baseball’s elite facility.”
Kentucky Proud Park, February 26
A new era of Kentucky baseball will launch on February 26, the date that the Kentucky Wildcats open Kentucky Proud Park with a matchup against Eastern Kentucky. Construction of the ballpark was actually completed last fall, but the 2019 season will mark Kentucky’s first in the facility.
Built as at a cost of $49 million, Kentucky Proud Park features a fixed seating capacity of 2,500. Its total regular-season capacity, however, will stand at roughly 5,000 when accounting for options such as stone terraces, grass berms, and a 360-degree concourse. As announced in October, the Kentucky Proud Park name was established after ballpark naming rights were secured by Kentucky Farm Bureau as part of an agreement that runs through 2033.
For Kentucky, the opening of the new on-campus ballpark marks the end of a long era at Cliff Hagan Stadium. That facility originally opened as the Bernie A. Shively Sports Center in 1969, before receiving renovations at several points over the years.
Rendering courtesy University of Kentucky.
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