By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
MORGANTOWN — Thanks to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the West Virginia state Legislature, a new $16.2 million baseball park is going to be constructed for use by WVU and other teams.
It is to be “publicly owned” and located on a plot high above University Town Center shopping mall. That will be one of a few items to be paid for — in part at least — by tax increments.
Best wishes go out to the state legislators, those in Monongalia County, and at the University.
With that said, I still maintain that WVU does not need a new baseball park. Hawley Field, is part of the Coliseum complex, and is said to be the best baseball playing surface in Northern West Virginia, at least that’s what I’m told by knowledgeable people.
Granted, it lacks locker rooms which could be built on ample space along side each of the dugouts. Those could have replaced the locker rooms available in the shell building at the entrance to Hawley Field.
As noted several times herein, the thought of growing numbers of people is that building a new baseball park will be a colossal waste of millions of dollars. An update of Hawley Field would cost thousands — not millions — of dollars.
College baseball never has come close to paying its way in Morgantown. I don’t believe it ever will, judging from attendance figures I’ve posted herein previously for the past 10 years.
In this connection, I’d like to print — with permission — a couple of e-mails amongst those I’ve received from readers of my columns.
The following one is from David Kelly of Morgantown:
“While it’s exciting for West Virginia to be in the Big 12, and the Big 12 having some fine college baseball programs, baseball has never been a draw at West Virginia University.
“There’s no bigger baseball fan in the world, but growing up in Morgantown and graduating from West Virginia University, I have never attended a WVU baseball game. Nary a one.
“Obviously, by the numbers Mickey posted, I’m not alone in never darkening the turnstiles of Hawley Field. College baseball is just an afterthought in Morgantown.
“And I can’t see that changing, even with membership in the Big 12.
“Until it’s proved that Morgantown residents and West Virginia fans suddenly develop a craving for college baseball, throwing more money at a new stadium — a stadium that will probably remain empty — is unjustifiable.
This e-mail is from Bob Rine, a ‘52 WVU graduate from Weirton and Wheeling:
“I agree completely that we don’t need that ball park. Television was killing minor league baseball way back when I umpired in the minors the ‘50s.
“And you’re right about the sparse attendance. Good column.