By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
Mist and clouds loomed over Morgantown Thursday afternoon, but still there was confidence that the baseball diamond would be ready for game day.
West Virginia University held a ground-breaking ceremony for a new baseball stadium at University Towne Centre.
The rainy weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of those gathered, especially that of baseball coach Randy Mazey.
“This is a great day in the history of Mountaineer baseball,” he said. “We’ve been playing baseball for 100-plus years. This may go down as the biggest day in the history of WVU baseball.”
The project is estimated to cost approximately $16 million and will be paid for through tax-increment financing. The school is hopeful that it will be completed in time for the 2015 baseball season.
“Right now today we’re looking at a field of mud. In 15 months we’ll be looking at a field of well-groomed grass with 7,000 seats” said West Virginia state Sen. Bob Beach, who sponsored the bill to develop the area. “We’ll all be sitting around, toasting each other and having a good, wholesome West Virginia evening.”
Beach was joined by several more politicians from the state and local government, including West Virginia Speaker of the House Tim Miley, Senate President Jeff Kessler, state Sen. Roman Prezioso and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s deputy chief of staff, Jason Pizatella.
The project hit a snag and required a special legislative session to iron out the final details. WVU director of athletics Oliver Luck thanked the politicians for helping to complete the project.
“We took it into extra innings, if you remember,” Luck said. “But you kept your calm, stayed steady at the plate and knocked it out of the park. We appreciate that very much.”
The new facility is an upgrade to the 40-year-old, 1,500 seat Hawley Field where the Mountaineers currently play. It will seat approximately 7,000 baseball fans and feature as many as four clubhouses. The Mountaineers and a minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks have reserved two of the clubhouses. Fairmont State’s baseball program has also expressed interest in playing at the new facility.
The project on the seven-acre property also includes a West Virginia University outpatient hospital which will overlook the ball park as well as a new interchange to I-79. Sen. Beach said the development will create 1,500 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent jobs in Monongalia County.
“The WVU baseball stadium that will rise on this land will generate significant economic benefits for the entire region,” said WVU president Jim Clements.
“Families will come to this ballpark, including mine, and we will make memories that will last a lifetime. Young kids will be inspired to play team sports and will gain the benefits that come from learning the value of teamwork through the value of hard work.”
Email Mike DeFabo at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.