Feb. 15-21, 2002
Back Issues
Employees form union
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
Weekend doubleheader to open transformed baseball stadium

Off the Shelf -- recently published books by U.Va. faculty and staff

Correction -- Thermometers supplied for free
Debbie Ryan looms as a giant in women’s basketball
Hunter to head science, engineering libraries
Notable -- awards and achievements of faculty and staff
Scholarship applications for faculty and staff children now available
Hot Links -- Newcomb Hall’s Web site
Engineering annual open house Feb. 23
Play ball
baseball stadium
Photo by Dan Heuchert
U.Va.’s baseball season gets under way this Saturday, Feb. 16, when the Cavaliers host a doubleheader against Bucknell at the University’s newly renovated stadium. For a complete 2002 baseball schedule: http://virginiasports.fansonly.com/sports/m-basebl.

Weekend doubleheader to open transformed baseball stadium

By Dan Heuchert

Sometime around noon this Saturday, an umpire will yell “Play ball!,” officially opening U.Va.’s baseball season.

The question is, will he be heard over the clattering of construction equipment?
While construction won’t actually be going on during the doubleheader with visiting Bucknell, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see work continue right up until game time. As of last week, dugouts were not completed, and not all of the seats were installed.
“We’re trying to focus on everything we need to play the game,” said Jason Bauman, associate director of athletics for facilities.

The field itself is in fine shape. In fact, the team has been practicing on it for a few weeks while construction continued around them. (Hardhats have come in handy for more than the usual reasons, as batting-practice foul balls carom off various parts of the stadium.)

All in all, the renovated stadium is already showing vast improvements. Where before fan seating was relegated to a few cold metal bleachers, exposed to the elements, there is now a towering covered grandstand with 1,500 seats, about half with individual chairbacks. Down the left-field line there is room for 500 more fans on a gently sloping hillside that officials hope will become a magnet for families. Eight luxury suites are roughed in, ready to be fitted out for the 2003 season.
Fans will now park in the University Hall lots and enter through the same Alderman Road gate used for Klöckner Stadium. For the first time, admission will be charged: $5 for adults, $3 for youths and seniors. U.Va. students are admitted free with their IDs.

New fences around the outfield and a new hitting backdrop should be completed in time for the first pitch. Lights have been installed, allowing night baseball for the first time; the first scheduled night game is March 29 at 7 p.m. against rival North Carolina. As the season progresses, new restroom and concession areas will open, and by April, a new home clubhouse should be complete.

The project is a welcome shot in the arm for a program that has struggled to compete against other better-funded schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, many of which have more modern facilities and warmer weather.

“I don’t know what the single most important thing in the history of Virginia baseball is, but this has to be pretty close,” said head baseball coach Dennis Womack, entering his 22nd season at U.Va. “If a young man decides not to come to U.Va., it won’t be because of the facilities.”

The facility improvements, and the message they send about the University’s commitment to baseball, appear to be opening doors already with recruits, he said. U.Va. went head-to-head with the University of Miami, arguably the top collegiate baseball program in the country, for one prospect in the most recent recruiting season. Although the young man eventually signed with the Hurricanes, “We made it hard on him,” Womack said.

Fund raising has gone well, with approximately $3.8 million already committed to the $5 million project, said Barry Parkhill, director of athletic development. He hopes to raise the balance with a few incentives: those who give $1,000 or more will have their name inscribed on a chairback (although it will not be a reserved seat), while former team members giving at least $10,000 can have the name of a former player, coach or manager inscribed on a locker in the new clubhouse.

The project was jump-started last summer by $2 million in anonymous gifts, which were quickly followed by an additional million-dollar gift, Parkhill said. That allowed planning and construction to begin almost immediately, with Charlottesville’s VMDO Architects churning out the blueprints. Construction began in the fall, and has been aided by a fairly mild winter.

“It’s a phenomenal project,” Parkhill said. “It’s just going to be a great-looking baseball venue.”


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