Fans attending home Charlotte baseball contests in 2013 will notice new additions to Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. A $55,000 renovation project has been completed to the home side of the stadium in time for the start of the season.
The most notable piece came with the additions to the first-base bullpen, which was expanded to the retaining wall and replaces the former picnic area on the right field side of the facility. One of the four mounds in the turf bullpen was removed, but three batting cages were installed, all with turf surfaces. The players will have an additional 2,200 feet of space for practice, development and warm-up in that area. One of the cages will have a pitching machine installed for players to hit balls at game speed. A temporary mound can be placed in one of the cages for additional pitching/warm-up space, while netting can be pulled out to an area for players to hit off the tee in additional turfed space. This cage project cost $45,000 and was finished in January. Money was raised through donations to the Grand Slam Club, as well as other "in-kind" gifts.
"We are thankful to have Hayes Stadium and Phillips Field and the fan amenities that were part of the original construction back in 2007," said Charlotte head coach Loren Hibbs, who begins 2013 as his 21st with the program. "The overall goal is to get our facility to the point where we can host an NCAA Regional. These two projects get us a step closer. Our batting cage area has needed an upgrade for many years and the new configuration will help us with player development and recruiting."
The additions to the Charlotte bullpen will alleviate teams having to the share the batting cages down below the left field side of the stadium. The visiting team will have exclusive use of that area during the full warm-up period, giving each team ample time in the cages before games.
In each dugout, the bench area has been renovated to include space under the benches, giving teams more storage space for gear in the dugouts. An additional protective railing was also installed in front of the two dugouts, expanding each by 500 square feet, providing teams with more room for getting around and space to observe the game. The cost of these renovations came in at $10,000.
The improvements will be most welcome for the upcoming 2013 Atlantic 10 Conference Baseball Championships, to be contested on campus starting Wednesday, May 22.
"We really wanted to make the Atlantic 10 tournament experience as easy and as positive as possible for the players and coaches. The expanded cages and dugouts will allow that to happen."
This year's conference tournament will feature four games on Wednesday and Thursday, with three scheduled to play Friday before Saturday's noon championship, with a potential 3:30 "if necessary" game in the double-elimination format.
"Our future move to Conference USA in 2014 has put a renewed sense of urgency on facility upgrades. We have a great place to play but we must continue to upgrade in order to remain competitive with other programs in this region and in C-USA. These two projects keep us moving forward."
"I want to thank Chad Price of Carolina Green, Paul Bowne of Kent Companies, R. John Tucker of Commercial Fabricators, as well as Tommy Hughes and Warren Monk for providing the resources necessary to get the projects completed. I also want to thank everyone who has donated to our Grand Slam Club over the past few years. Every dollar goes directly back in to our baseball program and allows us to make upgrades like these to our program."
Charlotte 49ers season ticket plans remain on sale for the lower bowl, at a cost of $75, which includes admission to the conference tournament. Ticket plans are available by contacting the Charlotte 49er Ticket Office at 704-687-4949.