A $5 million renovation to the baseball and softball fields will take place during summer 2016 and is slated to be finished by spring 2017, said Baseball Head Coach Grant Achilles. President Christina Paxson P’19 announced the fields’ renovation in a community-wide email Tuesday about gifts accepted at the October Corporation meeting.
The upgrades will be multifaceted: They will include the conversion of nearly the entire playing surface of each field to artificial turf, as well as improvements to the press boxes, stands, concession areas and existing batting cages, Achilles said. There is also a possibility that an indoor field will be built in the future, he added.
The project has been discussed before and is now moving forward because of increased donor interest, Achilles said.
“There’s been a need for our facility to be upgraded, and as with most projects at a university or elsewhere, it’s dependent on finances,” he said. “We’ve had several very generous donors step up and say that they want to be the lead to make this project happen. It’s been a conversation over the past couple of years — what’s needed and what we’re hoping to do.”
Fundraising for the project is nearly complete, Achilles said. “We’re not quite to our goal of $5 million, but we’re hoping to have that not only met but exceeded,” he said.
Players have reacted positively to the renovations.
“It’s great for the program, the players, the school,” said Christian Taugner ’17, a baseball pitcher who will return to the field this spring after missing the 2015 season due to injury. “Being a junior, I’ll only have one year, but it’s great having a nice field.”
“The team is really excited for it,” said softball pitcher Katie Orona ’18. “The coaches have been promising us a new field for a while.”
Both players said the renovations could lead to an increased amount of time spent on the fields.
“Last year, we didn’t have our first home game or practice out on the field until April. We had to practice inside,” Orona said. “Hopefully with the new field, the snow will melt faster.”
Taugner echoed this sentiment. “It’s nice to actually be able to get a nice turf field, where we don’t have to play home games on the road,” he said. “It’s easier for the team. We’ll be able to practice later into the fall and more into the winter, since our field won’t have to be covered by a tarp.”
Taugner also expressed interest in the possibility of an indoor space being built. “Hopefully in the future, we’ll be able to get a clubhouse area down there to be able to have all our gear in there in the fall,” he said.
Softball Head Coach Katie Flynn made a sketch of a post-renovation batting cage while at a tournament in California last year, Orona said. The sketch features a covered batting cage that would allow players to use the cage despite inclement weather, she added.
The construction should not interfere with either team’s practice time, Achilles said. “Regardless of the actual end date in 2016, we’ll be playing on this facility in the spring of 2017,” he added.