Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Ole Miss baseball fans have had the pleasure of enjoying a one-of-a-kind experience when entering Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field, but that atmosphere is about to take a dramatic step forward.

Following the current campaign, renovation of the stadium will get underway in a $10 to $12 million expansion that is set to be completed in time for the 2008 season.

“It will be an enormous project with various additions, which will greatly enhance the gameday experience at Ole Miss,” said Athletics Director Pete Boone.

Some of the amenities that will be added include 880 club seats between first and third base, as well as an increase in box seats from 400 to approximately 1,700. The overall number of chairback seats will rise from 2,951 to over 6,000, and all current chairbacks will be replaced. Fans will also be able to enjoy concession areas in the stands and additional restroom areas with handicap accessibility.

Average attendance last season was 4,850 with over 10,000 fans filling the park during regional competition, but Boone said these numbers should soar once fans are able to enter the new facility.

“Last year, when you actually count tickets, we had over 9,000 people in the park during the regional games,” he said. “With this increase, I think we will be able to get at least 10,000 and possibly 11,000 people comfortably in the stands during a game.”

The outside of the park will be of red brick with a new roof that will be similar to other buildings on campus. The facade will be of a traditional style that Boone said will coincide with the architectural style of Ole Miss.

“In keeping with the look of campus with the red brick, red roof and capstone, Chancellor (Robert) Khayat and I believe that the stadium will be very attractive,” said Boone. “Once you enter campus, you will be able to see a beautiful structure welcoming you to the university.”

The expansion will certainly have its advantages in terms of game environment, but it will also play a major role in future success for the baseball program. The facility will open the door for recruiting, as well as an enhanced gameday atmosphere for players.

“When everybody sees the rendering and what’s going to happen, they will see that the stadium is going to be very impressive,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco. “It’s going to be the nicest stadium in the country, help in recruiting and have that wow effect.”

These upcoming changes to Oxford-University Stadium are on the heels of several other recent additions and renovations to the facility. Beginning with the 2006 season, the park received a new scoreboard which contains a large video board capable of showing highlights and replays throughout the course of the game.

Before this season, the outfield area underwent some alterations as Oakes Pavilion in left field was improved and extended through left-center field to allow fans to enjoy the grills and more natural seating of the park. The right field seating was also extended and more picnic areas were built to benefit Ole Miss students.

In addition, a new office suite in front of the stadium was completed prior to this season that houses the Rebel coaches and support staff.

Bianco said the numerous facility upgrades are further adding to the growing success of the baseball program, which is currently ranked top-10 in the nation.

“We’ve sold out the seats two years in a row and now will be able to sell more tickets and put more people in the stands,” he said. “The atmosphere will continue to grow, and become more electric. It is going to be exciting, watching the program continue to build.”

With the addition to the stadium, baseball games at Ole Miss will be enhanced for players and fans alike, as they will be able to experience college baseball like none other in the country. With current and future success for the baseball team evident and construction set to take place, going to the ballpark will take on a whole new meaning in Oxford.

“I don’t think there will be a better looking or functioning facility in the nation,” said Boone. “With the quality and feel of this expansion, you won’t be able to get any better. This will be an absolutely gorgeous facility that will make baseball at Ole Miss a truly remarkable event.”

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