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The University of Oklahoma athletic department revealed plans on Thursday for improvements and expansion of both L. Dale Mitchell Park and Marita Hynes Field, the home for Sooner baseball and softball, respectively.
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione unveiled the plans for both.
"We are focused on developing a plan that allows us to modernize the facilities and improve them for both student-athletes and spectators alike," said Castiglione. "We have addressed many of our facilities in recent years and we now turn our attention to baseball and softball.
"With the master plan complete, we will focus on fund-raising efforts that will allow us to approach the projects prudently. I'm optimistic that donors to our program will see the value and efficiency of these projects and help us see them to completion."
Castiglione says the projects will cost about $15 million for softball and $10 million for baseball, but a timeline for the work has not been established.
In a news release, OU announced the work to be done on both facilities:
L. Dale Mitchell Park
The most visible aspect of the baseball project would be the development of the berms along the first and third base lines. Renovation of the existing berms along the first and third base side of the ball park would include the following:
• Terraced seating to allow for a combination of terraced picnic type seating on grass.
• Outdoor lounge seating on terraced wall.
• First base club consisting of drink rails, lounge seating, table-top seating.
• Outdoor concession area reminiscent of an outdoor sports lounge with TVs and specialty lighting.
• Integrated extension of the shade awning along the first base side.
• Expanded upper concourse.
• Outdoor lounge seating with shading devices.
• Shaded terraced awning in the shape of a baseball at the far end of the berms that will allow for bar height drink rails.
• Also in the plan is a second level clubhouse, coaches office and team meeting space.
OU head baseball coach Pete Hughes commented on the project.
"I know I speak for the student-athletes when I say the University of Oklahoma is committed to winning at the highest level and investing accordingly in its facilities for the student-athlete experience," said Hughes. "The future is bright when our baseball program is given the opportunity to grow as fast as the sport of college baseball.
"Our leadership at Oklahoma understands the bigger picture and realizes that these are the kinds of changes that will make an immediate impact in our program. Not only in making our park a destination for our fans, but in helping on the recruiting trail by making L. Dale Mitchell Park a first-rate facility for top talent to come play at and develop."
OU Softball Complex
The work at softball includes seating expansion at the stadium and student-athlete amenities in the clubhouse area:
• Expansion of the seating bowl around the infield to include 939 additional seats and 26 ADA seats to increase the fixed seating capacity in that area alone to 1,406. Including the outfield bleacher seats, the total capacity of the facility would increase from 1,378 to 2,566. The reconfigured seating bowl would consist of both fixed chair backs and bleachers.
• New shade canopy over the fixed seating behind home plate would provide shade coverage for the fans.
• Press box expansion to roughly triple its current size with new wings on both the first and third base side. This space would have the ability to be open air or enclosed depending on the weather. Most media are now seated in an open-air space on the concourse. The new area would place them and their equipment under cover in a more elevated position.
• Increased concession locations and restrooms added behind the home plate press box at field level.
• The reorganization of the visitor bullpen in right field and additional sidewalks to allow 360-degree access around the facility.
• The addition of an upper concourse to accommodate better flow of fans in and around the facility.
• The elimination of the outdoor batting cages would allow for the expansion of the locker rooms that house both student-athletes and coaches.
• On the south side of the clubhouse, a lobby area would be added to showcase memorabilia and trophies and serve as meeting space.
"Our fans have really made this work a necessity," said head softball coach Patty Gasso of the work proposed for her home facility. "We are gratified by the support we receive and we embrace the popularity that our program and sport have forged among so many. This is a thrilling time for softball worldwide and for OU in particular.
"The improvements to our team space will make an immediate impact on our recruiting. The explosion of interest across the country means that many schools have made substantial improvements to their facilities. Those improvements resonate with recruits. If we want to continue attracting and training the best softball prospects in the country, we need to offer an elite experience. Once we get this work done, we'll have one of the true softball showplaces in the country."