Ballpark User Rights & Design Announced

Progress continues on the development of West Virginia's new baseball facility, as a user agreement was reached dictating terms of scheduling and access as well as land rites and the design-build contract.

According to a WVU SID press release, a "use agreement between WVU, Monongalia County and the City of Granville has been signed, paving the way for continued progress for the planned ballpark. The agreement dictates how the ballpark will be used by various entities throughout the life span of the park. A seven-member scheduling committee will sit down each year and schedule public events and activities on a priority basis. The committee will be made up of two county members, two members from the city of Granville, two members from WVU and another member that is selected by all three groups.

"WVU baseball, or any baseball activities, will take precedent over city and county use. The city and county will then be able to schedule local baseball events, such as Little League championships, American Legion games or high school games. Following baseball activities, the ballpark will be open to the public's use for concerts, clinics, camps, etc."

The complex is to be built at the University Town Center shopping complex off I-79's Exit 155. A new interchange is eventually expected to be added as well. The release also stated that West Virginia University assigned its land rights to Monongalia County with the "two entities entering into a development agreement to build the ballpark on the 9.18 acres of land. Monongalia County will own the ballpark. WVU will operate the ballpark on a daily basis and incur any costs to maintain it, with the potential of a Minor League Baseball team also assisting in maintaining the park. WVU has awarded a design-build contract to Mascaro Construction, of Pittsburgh, for the construction of the ballpark. The land has already been prepped for construction, which is the next step in the process.

"The total price tag for construction of the ballpark is projected at $21 million, with the majority of the funds coming from the ballpark TIF. Bonds for the ballpark were issued by United Bank and WVU will make up any additional costs privately. The WVU design is fan friendly and includes 2,500 fixed seats, hillside seating, club seating, a fan amenity deck and a park that is open on a year-round basis for the enjoyment of the community. The ballpark will be a synthetic surface to accommodate severe weather and heavy use, with the exception of a clay pitchers mound. The dimensions will be 325 feet down the left and right field lines, 375 feet to the power alleys and 400 to center field."

"It's an exciting day for WVU athletics and the Morgantown community," Director of Athletics Oliver Luck said in the release. "Many long hours and hard work have already been logged just to get us to this point, and I want to thank everyone involved for their resolve. From our state legislators, our county commission, the city of Granville and Mon View Development, many entities came together as a team to get this project to this point. I firmly believe that this ballpark is not just about WVU baseball, but will also benefit all of Monongalia County and North Central West Virginia to provide good family entertainment to our area."

For this season, West Virginia is attempting to add bleacher seating down both baselines to expand the 1,500-seat capacity at Hawley Field. In its 43rd year, the facility is expected to host its last season of play as WVU builds the new ballpark. WVU averaged a school-record 1,328 fans per game last season and set a single-game mark as well with 2,535 against No. 17 Pitt. That more than doubled the previous record of 1,174 versus Maryland in 2007.

"Who would have thought the Mountaineers would have finished in the top 50 in the nation in attendance last year," head coach Randy Mazey said. "We traveled a lot and hopefully that support will come to Morgantown this year. Our home schedule, we play 17 games and a season ticket costs $60. If you can find a better value for your money, let me know what it is. To see the quality of games you get to see in the state of West Virginia, I think we should get more support than we did last season.

"We are going to be good and the kids work hard. From everybody I talk to around the Morgantown area, there's as much excitement for WVU baseball as there has been in a long time. That's the way we like it and we hope we can sustain it. Our kids do a wonderful job off the field and I think that attracts fans. Every time we go somewhere, we try to represent this university and the state in a first-class manner and I think that goes a long way."

West Virginia, which also played "home" games in Charleston and Beckley last season, will play three of its four (Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas) Big 12 series at Hawley Field this season. The other, against Baylor, will be in Charleston. WVU opens a difficult nonconference schedule on Feb. 14 in Charleston, S.C. against Louisville, a College World Series participant last season. The Mountaineers also have games against solid programs like San Diego State, UNLV, Coastal Carolina and James Madison in addition to more traditional foes like Ohio State, Pitt, Penn State, Marshall and Maryland.

Staff ace Harrison Musgrave said he thought West Virginia has "a chance to do some really good things. But if we take anybody lightly, because of our schedule, that could hurt us. We can't relax for too long because of the consecutive big games we play. But RPI is a big thing, and we can really build our RPI if we can get the right wins and stay on a roll. Our team depth will better allow us to do that."

WVU's first 20 games – like last season – will be on the road. The Mountaineers, with a first-year coaching staff, were in a feeling-out period then and went just 8-12 with half the losses decided by a single run or in extra innings.

"We gotta get on the road early," Mazey said of coaching a northern team. "That's a part of it; it's just what we do. I think our schedule is really challenging. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when I made it, but the kids want to play against good teams. I want to coach against good teams, the fans want to see good teams play against each other. They love good competition.

"The first 20 games last season, I didn't really know the players and they didn't really know me. I think if we had had a better showing in the first 20 games, we had a team that was capable of playing in the postseason. This year, going into the first 20 games before conference play, I think the expectations amongst ourselves are a lot higher. If we come out of the gates well and have a pretty good record heading into conference play then I really believe this team has a chance to play in the postseason. This schedule should suit everybody who is a college baseball fan."

West Virginia will also have to navigate a Big 12 slate with five squads ranked in Collegiate Baseball's Top 40. Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas – who shockingly finished last in the conference a year ago – are ranked in the Top 25. Kansas State sits just outside at 28th.

"The thing about our league is the last place team last year could win it this year," Mazey said. "They are going to be much better. Texas, TCU is always good. Kansas State returns a lot of people and they won the league last year. Any team can beat any team."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories