WVU baseball: Stadium plans begin for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Nearly two months have passed since the state legislature voted for the Tax Increment Financing bill that will help finance West Virginia University's new baseball stadium.
The clouds from all the brainstorming since then will open today when the minds charged with designing the ballpark meet for the first time.
The TIF, a funding plan based on tax increases at University Town Center, will cover up to $16 million. WVU said in March the cost could climb to $18 million - and never mentioned a ceiling.
"I've got some ideas, but I need to see how well they'll be received before I tell anyone what we'll have in there," Mountaineers Coach Randy Mazey said. "I don't think anybody on the panel has been in more college baseball stadiums or just baseball stadiums than I've been in. I've seen things I like and things I didn't like, so hopefully I can give them my input and maybe get some of the features I do like, some of them big and some of them not too big."
Mazey, who finished 33-26 in his first season, said the panel will include project managers at WVU and representatives from the architecture team and the design team.
Mazey said the meeting will be the first time he's met many of them.
He's not going in unprepared, though. Mazey and Athletic Director Oliver Luck traveled last week to a few ballparks they wanted to study and perhaps emulate. Mazey said they made note of some things and fit them into what he already had in mind.
Mazey won't say where they visited - "It's probably not good for recruiting to let someone say, 'Well, West Virginia copied our ballpark,' " he said - or what specifics he has planned. He has a general vision of the stadium and plenty of options for his preferences.
The area atop the hill at the town center is windy, which could help or hurt an offense. College baseball's aluminum bats have been deadened in recent years for player safety.
A deeper park could help Mazey's pitchers. A shallow park would help West Virginia's offense.
"I've always believed a park should be perfectly symmetrical, from the bullpens to the outfield fences to the dugouts," Mazey said. "One side should be a mirror image of the other. Some stadiums are a little different and do things to give them a little bit of character, but I don't think we'll do anything too crazy.
"I don't want a place where people come in and think they can hit a lot of cheap home runs. I don't want a place where people come in and hit it as hard as they can and it ends up 10 feet in front of the warning track. I want to stay basic."
Mazey knows that will work for the distance to the outfield walls and the way team's digs are the same as the opponent's, but he admits he wants some unique features.
"What I want to do is, when people come to the stadium, I want them to have a good experience," he said. "When they come in, I want a wow factor. Hopefully, we can incorporate some of the local flavor. I don't know if I'd go as far as a coal wall in the outfield, but we'll have something so when people come in, they know where they are."
The fan experience doesn't merely cover the stadium's look. Concession stands, restrooms, the proximity of parking to the stadium and other conveniences can distinguish a stadium. Mazey understands a lot of those ideas are money driven, but he has things in mind that he'd like to bounce off his peers today.
"One thing in college stadiums is that people seem to enjoy watching the game on the outfield fence," Mazey said. "I know some parks around the country I've been to have a tailgating area behind the outfield fence. Some have party decks. That's the kind of thing for college kids to watch the game. You want it to be a place people want to come to."
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THE BIG 12 is looking into helping WVU's basketball teams with their travel for the 2013-14 season, but Mazey said he's unaware of any assistance for the baseball team, which has commercial flights and frequently long bus rides after those flights.
Mazey is hoping for more games in Morgantown next season - and that's assuming the new stadium won't be finished in time. WVU played all of its conference home games in Charleston or Beckley this season.
"Everyone in Morgantown was so excited to join the Big 12 for baseball that I'd like for those people to have an opportunity to see some Big 12 games," he said. "I'd love to play more games here."
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WVU PLAYED just eight games in Morgantown at Hawley Field and just two in the season's final 25 games. Mazey said his team was on campus for 33 of the final 103 days of the season.
As difficult as that was from a performance standpoint, Mazey said it was a grind academically, too.
"Our guys basically never attended a Friday class all season," he said. "Some of them missed Thursday classes, too, because we traveled Thursdays."
Still, Mazey said the team's spring semester GPA was 2.89 following a 3.12 in the fall. While that's "pretty significant," according to Mazey, his team still has to worry about the Academic Progress Report that arrives next June. If the Mountaineers are below a 963 for the 2012-13 year, they'll face a postseason ban in the 2015 season.
WVU's last three one-year APR scores were 965, 912 and 822. The four-year average beginning next season has to be at or above 930 to avoid the postseason penalty.
"We tried hard to make sure everyone did pretty well in school and when you have a team GPA over 3.0, you don't get hurt as much by the APR," Mazey said. "Something I've taken a lot of pride in is academics and APR. You can't foresee the future, but I hope we're in good shape."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.