The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors on Monday approved the athletics department’s plans for a major upgrade and improvements at English Field at Union Park.
Estimated cost for the project is $18 million, which will be completed in time for the 2018 season, the 125th season of baseball at Virginia Tech. The Hokies will be able to continue to use the facility throughout the construction and the 2017 season.
A major gift of $3.5 million from Union Bank & Trust, announced in March, got the fund-raising effort off to a start. Financing will include a combination of donations and some debt service.
“The design for Union Park retains the unique fan-friendly terrace seating while building a state-of-the-art stadium that will be a draw for the community,” Billy Beale, CEO of Union Bank & Trust said. “The new facility will provide a fantastic first impression of Virginia Tech through the new interchange and I’m excited that Union will be associated with it.”
Late this fall, the current press box and permanent stands at the ballpark will be razed and site preparation for the improvements will begin. Actual construction on the stands and press box will begin following the completion of the 2017 season.
“We are excited to be able to begin on this tremendous project,” Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock said. “Through our partnership with our good friends at Union Bank & Trust, we will be able to build a baseball facility that will allow us to compete at the highest level. It will also allow us to present a fan experience that will enrich not only our baseball team, but our entire athletics program. When completed, this park will serve as a great entrance to our campus and our overall facilities.”
The main seating area will be reconstructed and moved closer to home plate, affording fans a better view of game action. Total capacity of the new seating area is expected to be 1,500, in addition to the left field terrace seating.
Construction plans provide for a club behind the first base (visitors) dugout. This area, similar to the popular club areas of Lane Stadium, will allow fans to experience a high level of comfort while enjoying the Hokies on the diamond.
The popular terrace seating down the left field line will remain, allowing fans, especially those with children, to enjoy the games in a casual setting.
The new press box tower structure will feature improvements to accommodate fans, the media, and athletics staff. The ground level will include enhanced concessions, marketing, and restroom facilities. A dramatic arch, reminiscent of Torgersen Bridge on the Alumni Mall, will be a striking entrance to the park and will allow patrons to follow the game while in line at the concession stand.
The second floor will house a working press box, ample television and radio broadcast facilities, and game operations space, along with four suites. The suites will be available for purchase and will feature many of the same amenities as the suites in Lane Stadium and courtside at Cassell.
Also part of the construction will be a social area down the right field line for functions in conjunction with games. A new video board will replace the current scoreboard in right field to further the enhancements.
Another major improvement for the team will be the construction of a clubhouse in the ground floor of the Jim Weaver Baseball Hitting Facility, past the left field foul pole. The space, currently used for storage, will be redone with a spacious locker room and player lounge, along with a team room, equipment room, and a video room for players and coaches to do individual skills review.
The enhancements to the park will bring the Virginia Tech baseball facilities better in line with others in the Atlantic Coast Conference, perhaps the top league in collegiate baseball. The wide variety of viewing areas will allow fans to chose the amenities that best suit their needs to enjoy a day at the park.
The architect of the project is Cannon Design, and Whiting Turner is handling the construction. This is a design-build project, in the manner of the football locker room building and the new football indoor practice facility. Design-build is a growing approach in the construction industry where both the design and the construction services are provided by a single contractor. The team of Cannon and Whiting Turner built the Hahn Hurst Basketball Practice Center.