That was the message from Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart on Monday as he formally announced plans for a long-awaited new baseball stadium for the Wildcats.
"Suffice it to say, this is a really cool day for Kentucky Baseball," Barnhart said. "... We talk about that all the time in terms of the things we want to do for our young people and we want to give them the best chance to have resources to match the expectations they have for things they do in the Southeastern Conference. For so many years we’ve been desiring to do some things for our baseball program.
"As I told our baseball alumni last weekend, sometimes you want good, sometimes you want better, and if you wait long enough, you get best. Patience and waiting, I think we’ve got the best solution we could possibly find in a location, as time has turned out, we’ve created a little bit of an athletic village."
Construction is expected to begin in February on the $49-million venue, which will be located off Alumni Drive between Commonwealth Stadium and the UK soccer/softball complex. The project is expected to take 18 months to complete and be ready in the fall of 2018.
The stadium, which has yet to be named, will have 2,500 fixed seats and will accommodate up to 4,000 fans for regular season games. It will be designed to allow up to 7,000 fans for potential tournament play in the future. It will also feature a team lounge, locker room, training area, indoor hitting and pitching areas, and coaching offices, as well as a recruiting room.
Dimensions of the new park will be similar to Cliff Hagan Stadium, with the exception of a deeper right-field line and gap over to centerfield. The wind is expected to carry out more often at the new venue, although it remains unclear how it will come into play with the field sitting below a small ridge.
Cliff Hagan Stadium served as the home of the Wildcats since 1969. The old park will then be demolished to make way for a new facility for UK Tennis and a new UK Soccer practice field.
UK Athletics is working with Ross Tarrant Architects and HNTB to design and build the stadium, the same partners who recently completed the renovations of Commonwealth Stadium and the new Kentucky Football Training Facility.
First-year UK head coach Nick Mingione, who took over the program this spring, said the status of a new stadium has been the No. 1 question he gets from recruits and their families. He noted that the Cats have picked up commitments from 15 different states since his staff arrived in Lexington, and that was before the new project was approved. He was waiting for the board of trustees to give its final approval before using it as a recruiting tool.
"We’re excited," Mingione said. "This is a huge, huge deal for our program. ... The two words I think about when I think about this stadium are commitment and investment. What a huge commitment. I can sit across from every family and now our players all know by us having this stadium that commitment is big."
EDITOR'S NOTE: UK's Tyler Marshall is pictured above simulating an at-bat from the GPS position of home plate at the new stadium with Alumni Drive and the Arboretum in the background. Below, an artist's rendering of the new stadium and its location in relation to Commonwealth Stadium and the Alumni Drive sports village.