Alabama Athletics Director Bill Battle took media on a tour of the Crimson Tide’s Sewell-Thomas Baseball Stadium, which has been under construction for the past year and a half, and the facility shows that $42 million buys a lot.
Battle, along with Baseball Coach Mitch Gaspard and Alabama facilities professionals visited dozens of top college and professional baseball facilities around the nation and incorporated the best of what they found. And in many cases, the Tide improved on what it had seen as the best. The result, said Gaspard, is Bama has “vaulted to the top.”
The facility is essentially new and includes two stadium clubs, 12 suites, a new press box, grandstand and bleachers sections, a separate hitting facility thought to be the nation’s largest, a players lounge, meeting room, locker room, and press box.
“Every area is tops,” Gaspard said. “There is nothing we look at and say we wish we had done it differently.”
Battle said the stadium was built with everything necessary to host major events, such as NCAA Regionals, and that parts of the stadium would also be available to private functions, as is the case with Bryant-Denny Stadium and Coleman Coliseum. One interesting “consultant” on the project was Paul Bryant, Jr., whose resume includes having been a general manager in the Oakland A’s organization with the Birmingham Barons.
The Tide athletics director said the stadium came in “on time and on budget,” although the original budget was $30 million. It was decided that nothing that could reasonably be afforded would be left out. Only finishing touches remain to complete the project.
The stadium will open on Feb. 6 with an alumni game as many of the top stars from Alabama’s baseball past will return.
The first game will be Feb. 19 against Maryland.
One of the stars returning for the alumni function is David Madagan, who was winner of the Golden Spikes Award (baseball’s Heisman) in 1983 as he batted .525 (still the Southeastern Conference record) and led Bama to second place in the College World Series. The stadium’s plush upstairs 525 Club, a 2,000-square foot space including 750-square foot patio, is named in honor of his batting average.
The 2,900-square foot Home Plate Club is on field level directly behind home plate and has direct access to the field level seats for those members behind home plate.
Although most of the attention will be on the amenities for fans in the way of concessions, seating, lighting, etc., Battle pointed out that Alabama has been at a disadvantage in recruiting against state’s with education based scholarships that are used to gain extra players. Many of the features of the new stadium, including locker room, training room, meeting room, and players lounge should be helpful in recruiting, he said.
Sewell-Thomas Stadium will reopen with slightly fewer seats, capacity at 4,500, but there is the potential to add up to 2,000 more. Field level seating throughout the park includes chairback seats angled towards home plate. A canopy overhand extends from third base to first base. Sightlines have been adjusted allowing viewing of the entire field from all seats.
The terrace seating in right field for students remains. Scouts will be seated in an area that does not block sightlines.
There is also berm seating on the first base side and a patio behind the left field line. Behind the left field fence is a family area playground of 2,000 square feet.
The main entry gates are behind home plate and along the first base and third base lines, and there are also entry areas from the outfield for the convenience of those parking in the Coleman Coliseum lot.
Restrooms and three concession areas are on the concourse, which allows people to access all sides of the park at any time. There is also the Alabama Baseball Hall of Fame and a team store on the concourse.
Bullpens have been moved to line the outfield walls in left center (Alabama’s as the Tide will now be in the third base dugout) and right center.
The playing area is slightly smaller with down-the-line distances of 320 feel and straightaway center 390. The outfield fence is 12-feet high.