The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

April 3, 2013

Does West Virginia baseball really need a new park?

MORGANTOWN — Does West Virginia University’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics really need a new baseball park?

I don’t happen to believe that it does at this time. I think it would be wasted money, especially with athletics being $13 million (or more) in the red.

I’ve been told that Hawley Field, already existing in the WVU Coliseum Complex, could be updated with locker rooms on each side of the existing dugouts. And it doesn’t require a scholar or scientist to know those locker rooms would cost WVU a lot less than constructing a new ballpark atop a plot in the middle of a large shopping mall.

College baseball here never has paid its way. In my opinion, it never will. Only about 300 spectators — mostly students — attend a WVU baseball game, even on a good, warm day.

I happen to know because I have been covering games at Hawley Field at its present location since about 1970.

Before that, it was situated elsewhere to make space for the $10 million WVU Coliseum.

It’s been said that the powers-that-be are negotiating with promoters of a Class A professional team to become part of the new ballpark.

There are those who seriously doubt that a Class A team would pay its way in Morgantown and turn a profit on a consistent basis.

Bridgeport officials announced some time ago that they plan to have a Class A team. And that’s another matter Morgantown and WVU officials should very well keep in mind.

Could two ballparks in cities so close together really make enough money to survive? I don’t know. I’m just asking.

A retired WVU administrator would tell you Hawley Field is one of the best ballparks in northern West Virginia. It has a great all-around surface and a great training system.

Hawley Field also has adequate space to expand the seating area of bleachers which were donated by a Morgantown company.

What’s more, I’ve been told by people who know that the new ballpark is planned at a high-elevation area in the large shopping mall. And it’s cold and windy there in the spring when baseball is played as well as in the summer.

Again, I ask: Do WVU and Morgantown really need a new multi-million ballpark for baseball?

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