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USD athletics hits home run with new baseball stadium

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Sometimes in sports, aging players have to reinvent and renovate their game in order to stay relevant in a particular league. Once in a while, this also happens to sporting venues.

For the past nine months, the University of San Diego’s baseball stadium has been going through some major improvements in order to keep up with competition.

Ted Gosen, associate athletics director for media relations at USD, said the No. 1 reason for the renovations to Fowler Park was to allow the school to host NCAA regional and super regional games. The Toreros have made the NCAA baseball regionals six times under current head coach Rich Hill.

“We didn’t have enough seats,” Gosen said. “We also have never had lights before and this is a requirement for regionals, since they are televised night games.”

Construction started right after the Toreros' final 2012 home game, May 13. The old 1,200-seat stadium was completely torn down, except for the batting cages. Ninty-four percent of the waste was recycled.

The $13.8 million stadium was built on the same site. The field was moved to the right so there could be more room on the third-base side of the stadium.

The entrance to the park now has a grand arch and is detailed in 16th-century Spanish Renaissance style to match USD’s look.

At the top of the stadium there is now a 4,000-square-foot deck, which sits atop the Torero Clubhouse along the third-base line. Torero Deck features a turf surface for kids and a viewing area.

There are also two suites directly behind home plate that can be expanded to one large suite.

For the first time, the stadium has a press box, and it includes an operations room and two radio and TV booths.

The seating area is now more bowl-shaped, which goes from first to third base, which you walk down from the main campus level. Seating capacity is now 1,700 seats (with 14 to 16 rows). For more popular games, the stadium can accommodate 3,000 additional fans with temporary seating areas.

Each team dugout is built into the ground and designed to replicate a Major League Baseball bench area.

The Toreros' clubhouse has offices for coaches, a conference room, team locker room, players’ lounge, soft-toss area and an athletic training area.

The field is covered with overseeded hybrid Bermuda grass called Bandera. The head groundskeeper with the San Diego Padres, Luke Yoder, assisted with this project along with USD’s grounds maintenance staff.

The stadium is illuminated with a green Musco Lighting System and held up by eight stadium-style light posts.

The outfield fence is padded and 8 feet high. The dimensions from home plate are 312 feet to left field, 370 to left-center, 391 feet to center, 385 to right-center and 327 feet to right field.

Beyond the outfield fence there is only the digital scoreboard, designed by ICG, and the batter’s eye — found in center field — which measures 80 feet wide and 40 feet high.

The park also has two elevators to assist guests in getting around the facility and a dedicated ticket office.

The stadium is made up of 26,750 concrete blocks (16 inches by 8 inches each) and 3,237 cubic yards of cement to construct.

Turner Construction, which helped build Yankee Stadium, was the general contractor on the project. World-renowned sporting venue architecture firm Populous was the architect. The stadium was designed and constructed to meet LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Fowler Park and Cunningham Field was named after Ron and Alexis Fowler, who donated an undisclosed sum to build the new stadium, and USD Hall of Fame baseball coach John Cunningham. Previously, the ballpark was known as Cunningham Stadium.

The venue opened Feb. 15 with a three-game series against San Diego State University.

The renovations to the ballpark are part one of a $30 million master plan to reinvest in USD’s athletic programs.

Called the Drive for Torero Success, this plan involves building a new golf, softball and club sports facility; renovating the Skip and Cindy Hogan Tennis Center; and providing operational and scholarship endowments.

“Ron Fowler and Ky Snyder (executive athletics director for USD) were the stars for the big push to improve our facilities,” Gosen said.

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