Baseball stadium plans have new look

Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field as we've known it for 18 seasons should have a new look for its 20th birthday. Starting with additional outfield areas for next season and an expanded grandstand structure for 2008, the facility will accomodate many more fans and be even more fan-friendly.

It doesn't appear the earlier drawing and design of Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field that was made public will be the one used in the actual process. There's been some re-evaluating going on.

"We're considering a plan where the club seats will be behind the existing grandstand, above and behind, and then extending the grandstand out into the left and right field areas (down third and first base lines)," Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone said today. "That would net between 2,500 and 3,000 seats in those areas. We would have to remove some seats at the top to add the 500 club seats."

This would also mean adding onto the ends of the current stadium with more grandstand seating and also adding more box seats below at field level.

The total seating capacity in the entire grandstand area would be somewhere between 5,500 and 6,000. The grandstand currently seats 3,000. The entire facility, counting the grandstand areas and the outfield areas, would likely hold somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 fans fairly comfortably, and perhaps even more.

"In the outfield areas, we will extend the left field terracing to center field and use the same concept," Boone said. "We'll probably add another row to the bottom of those areas to add more seating. The same thing in right field. We're looking at what to do there, but we'll probably add a couple of rows there for more seating."

Boone said they are also looking at adding a new area between the tennis courts in right field for grilling and cooking. It isn't certain yet how large this will be or what it will look like. Also it does not appear now that there will be any elimination of tennis courts beyond right field.

The plans still call for new baseball coaches offices to be built between Old Taylor Road and the stadium itself near the circle drive and parking area there now.

"That should start within a couple of weeks after the Super Regional later this month," Boone said.

Also to be ready by next season are the expanded outfield areas mentioned above. Restrooms and concession areas are also planned for the outfield areas.

The main grandstand expansion construction with the additional reserved seats, box seats, and club seats will begin a year from now after the 2007 season.

Boone said he is looking forward to an expanded and improved Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.

"Now that we know what we want, we can move forward," he said. "We now have to go through the proper procedures here at the university to get this done."

The city of Oxford has already committed funds from the current tourism tax in the amount of $200,000 for 15 more years.

Boone said the club seats at the top of the structure would mean they would be built behind the existing structure. The roof is supposed to remain but the top three rows of seats will be lost to general seating.

With the large addition to the grandstand, the back of the stadium and the entrance into the stadium will have a new look.

"We will be able to give it a more traditional baseball stadium look," Boone said.

He also noted how important baseball has become again to Ole Miss and its fans.

"It is a program that is consistently winning in the SEC while also being nationally prominent," Boone said. "A lot of standards are now being measured by this program. It shows that if you create a sustainable winning program, then Ole Miss fans will support it in record numbers. That's what's happened here."

Boone says the growth in attendance isn't a one-year situation either. He says over the past three seasons Rebel fans have headed to the ballpark in record numbers, and more are still coming.

"Mike (Bianco) has created a whole different group of fans here with this program. This expansion wouldn't be needed if we thought we were going to move a thousand people out of the grandstand and into the club seats or other areas. We thought that might be the case at some point earlier. But we're not thinking that way anymore. There are new people associating with Ole Miss baseball every day.

"It's not like the old saying if you build it they will come," Boone said as far as the stadium is concerned. "They're already coming, and now we've got to build a place for them to sit. The entire facility will be much more fan-friendly."

Boone says everything seems to be lining up for the program to continue its run of success for years to come.

"In my opinion there's not a better college baseball program than the one at Ole Miss right now in the entire country."

And in a couple of years, an already outstanding stadium will be an even better home for the nationally-prominent Ole Miss Rebels.

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