April 24, 2013

photo courtesy of Evan Krape

-- Four facility improvement projects that will enhance the experience of thousands of University of Delaware students for years to come were announced by UD Director of Athletics and Recreation Services Eric Ziady Wednesday.

The projects include a major renovation of the Bob Hannah Baseball Stadium, including the installation of an artificial turf surface and a new scoreboard, dugouts, bullpens, and batting cages; the installation of a new all-weather outdoor track in the Delaware Mini-Stadium; the transformation of the Delaware Field House into a first-class indoor practice facility with an artificial turf surface; and the total resurfacing of two natural grass soccer practice fields that are also used for summer youth camps.

In addition to the four new projects, construction continues at the Carpenter Sports Building where a new 45,000-square-foot expansion to Delaware’s primary recreation facility for students and staff is taking place. Plans for the three-story expansion include new workout areas, group exercise rooms, offices, a student lounge,and an outdoor courtyard. The project is expected to be completed this fall when students return to campus.

“We are extremely excited today to announce these significant facility improvements,” said Ziady. “These projects are designed not only to improve upon the student-athlete experience on an intercollegiate level, but also to provide significantly expanded programming for all club, intramural, and recreational participants. Our goal is to maximize utilization of all our athletic facilities in a way that we can better serve the University of Delaware student population while also striving to provide venues that will be attractive destinations for community, state, and national athletic and entertainment events.” Work is already underway on the two soccer practice fields with construction at the other three venues expected to begin this summer or early fall. The projects demonstrate the University’s ongoing commitment to Athletics while also providing opportunities for Alumni and friends to contribute financially and make all aspects of these projects a reality.

The estimated costs of the new projects is $3.8 million funded by the Athletics capital allocation, plus gifts that have been raised in the past and that will be raised in the future. “The modifications and improvements to these facilities come at a critical time,” said Jake Olkkola, UD associate athletics director for recreation services. “With usage and demand at an all-time high, these multi-purpose spaces will be a huge asset to recreation services and could benefit thousands of intramural, club, and recreation athletes.”

“With the upgrade, University facilities will become more flexible in their capacity for hosting a wide array of sports, and that makes them even more appealing as event venues,” said David Arthur, executive director of the Delaware Sports Commission, which has a primary aim of fostering Delaware’s status as a destination for sporting events. “UD has been a great partner of the Delaware Sports Commission, and their efforts to attract outside events have only increased the exposure and awareness of the state of Delaware.”

Bob Hannah Baseball Stadium will see its first major improvements since 2000 and the new enhancements will be significant, transforming the facility into one of the top venues in the Colonial Athletic Association. Artificial turf will cover the entire field except for the pitching mound, making for a higher-quality playing surfaces and giving UD the ability to host practices and games later into the fall and earlier in the spring. In addition, new dugouts, outfield wall, bullpens, batting cages, and a scoreboard will be installed as will a new grass seating area.

The final scope of the project will be determined by the success of ongoing fundraising efforts with final plans to complete the project in time for the 2014 season.

The improvements will also allow the UD club baseball team increased usage of the facility with the hopes of attracting more outside groups, including local high school and youth teams throughout the playing seasons.

“These improvements will benefit our program immensely,” said Delaware baseball head coach Jim Sherman, whose team finished as CAA runners-up in 2012 and currently ranks second in the league standings this spring. “The turf will allow us greater accessibility to the field during the pre-season and cut down on the competitive disadvantages we have now due to limited outdoor practice opportunities. We will also have very little maintenance issues with the field and will minimize the chances of losing competition days due to poor field conditions and inclement weather. In addition, the new field will allow our club baseball team as well as other outside groups greater opportunities to use the facility.”

The Delaware Mini-Stadium track will also see its first significant improvements since 2000 with the installation of a new 400-meter track. The new track will give the University a first-class facility that will continue to be used by the Blue Hen women’s track & field program as well as the men’s club team, recreation programs, outside groups, and the community. The improvements will also allow UD to bid for championship and other events.

“The outdoor track renovation is drastically needed," said Delaware women's cross country and track & field coach Wendy McFarlane. "I am grateful to the athletic department for making the investment in this upgrade. This will definitely open up an opportunity to potentially host the CAA Championships and other events down the road.”

The Delaware Field House project will transform the facility into a first-class indoor practice complex and complete the renovations that in recent years have included a new lighting system, heating and air conditioning improvements, the addition of solar panels, and structural improvements.

Artificial turf will be installed over the current tartan surface throughout the arena, making it the largest indoor turf facility in the state of Delaware. A total of 16 UD varsity athletics programs will benefit from the improvements, giving those teams an enhanced training facility and the ability to hold full practice sessions during inclement weather. A building that is now vacant nearly 85 percent of the time during normal business hours will now also be used by intramurals and club teams and for recreational purposes well into the evening hours, transforming it into a center of activity on campus. The improved surface will also attract additional outside groups and organizations.

“I’m thrilled to hear the news about the capital improvement project for the Delaware Field House,” said new University of Delaware football head coach Dave Brock. “This exciting project will benefit not only UD Athletics, but the entire University community. This project is another example of Delaware’s commitment to the total student-athlete experience.”

“It is an exciting time to be a Blue Hen,” said Delaware women’s lacrosse head coach Kateri Linville. “This improvement to the Delaware Field House and the addition of turf will be a positive one for the entire student body and for the lacrosse program. Having an indoor facility where our teams can train year-round gives us a competitive advantage not only within the conference but on a national level. This gives us the opportunity to promote our facilities, improve the student-athlete’s training experience, and grow the game by providing indoor space to run camps and clinics. On a larger scale, it means that our recreation and intramural programs will now have another place on campus to compete and have fun.”

“I am thrilled about the upgrades planned for the Delaware Field House,” said Delaware men’s lacrosse head coach Bob Shillinglaw. “Converting the surface to artificial turf will have a major impact on our men’s lacrosse program both in training and recruiting. The addition of indoor artificial turf together with the resurfacing of the two practice fields to Bermuda grass gives our program the ability to train and prepare for any potential playing surface. In addition, with the projects planned for the baseball and outdoor track facilities, we will now have an outstanding comprehensive athletic complex to present to potential recruits.”