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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Going ’Hog’ wild: KU ballpark getting another new look

Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark is undergoing a minor face-lift. Stripped of its former natural-grass surface, “The Hog” — shown naked Monday — will get a new Astroturf surface.

Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark is undergoing a minor face-lift. Stripped of its former natural-grass surface, “The Hog” — shown naked Monday — will get a new Astroturf surface.

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Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark is getting another facelift, the park’s fifth since 1999.

No longer will the KU baseball program have to worry about grass stains on the uniforms. No longer will the Jayhawks play on natural grass.

This spring, KU will play on a new synthetic playing surface — Astroturf Gameday 3D — that currently is being installed at Hoglund Ballpark.

“This is the final piece of the puzzle for us to continue to improve Hoglund Ballpark so that we can be a top-25 program,” KU coach Ritch Price said.

During the eight years Price has been in Lawrence, several professional ballplayers have come through his program.

Many of those players have credited Price for helping them get to where they are today, but the recent actions of a handful of them goes farther than a few kind words.

“This is all paid for by donors and boosters and former players — all fund-raised dollars,” Price said of the $1.2 million project that is expected to be completed in early September. “No University of Kansas money is being used at all in the project, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate their support.”

One of the most critical donors for this latest project already has done more than his share for the venue. Forrest E. Hoglund, a Lawrence native and former KU baseball player, pledged a good chunk of the money to upgrade the playing surface at the stadium named in his honor. Such a gesture is not uncommon for Hoglund and his wife, Sally, who have provided funding for several other KU baseball projects in the past.

The reason? Simple.

“The University of Kansas is a great institution that has achieved its status through a combination of state support and private philanthropic funding,” Hoglund said. “Ever since we were students, Sally and I both hoped to participate in that tradition, and one of my interests was baseball. My vision is for Kansas to have a first-class baseball program. One of the big needs we had was to create an outstanding ballpark to play in, one that would make the players, recruits, coaches, fans and students proud.”

The new turf is the latest in a series of upgrades at Hoglund Ballpark. In 1999, a new press box was installed, and the area around the field was enhanced with black iron gates and fences, expanded dugouts and rest rooms and a sharp-looking brick plaza entrance. The price tag for that project was $1.8 million, most of which was covered by a gift from Hoglund.

In 2005, construction of an indoor hitting facility down the right-field line — the Hoglund Indoor Training Center — was completed, and a year later the university installed a 16-foot-by-28-foot, state-of-the-art video board above the scoreboard in right field.

Three years later, in 2009, Hoglund Ballpark welcomed the McCarthy Family Clubhouse to the park, a spacious home for the Jayhawks situated behind the dugout on the first-base side that includes player and coaches locker rooms, a players lounge, academic rooms and cardio and training rooms.

The week after the 2010 season concluded, construction crews were on the field tearing up the old surface and preparing the site for the new stuff. Doing so included a lot more than just ripping up some grass and laying turf down.

“There was about a four-foot hole where the infield used to be,” Price said. “That’s how far down the rock and drainage system is being installed.”

While the previous upgrades made the Kansas baseball experience more enjoyable for coaches, players, fans and recruits, the current project figures to help directly with the product on the field. For starters, the Jayhawks will be able to spend more time on the field in the early days of the season.

“It’s something we’ve been working on for the last three years, trying to raise the funds to install the new synthetic turf that’s being put on a lot of the fields across America that are cold-weather programs,” Price said. “It’s certainly an exciting time for our program.

“I kept track this last spring, and there were 17 days before April 1 where, if we could’ve gotten on the field, it was nice enough outside to have practiced. But unfortunately the ground was too hard, the ground was wet or there was still snow on the ground, and we were unable to practice.”

After taking a top 25-ranking and lofty Big 12 expectations into the 2010 season, KU finished 31-27-1, finished seventh in the conference and missed the NCAA Tournament.

Comments

Lindsey Buscher 7 years, 3 months ago

How is turf an upgrade? Anybody surveyed the players? I bet they prefer playing on real grass.

Andy Tweedy 7 years, 3 months ago

I second jdavid. Tear out that stupid track!!!

hailtoku 7 years, 3 months ago

Wow. Very frustrating to see KU raise more than one million dollars and use it to replace real grass for- drum role- fake grass....

Use it to build better seating, better clubhouse, etc... no recruit is that impressed with turf.

Also, I third the motion to tear out the track. Talk about the biggest oversight in KU history. What is our football administration thinking? Texas high schools have better stadiums and aren't going to come to KU. Even our new facilities aren't that great.

iahawkfan 7 years, 3 months ago

KU didn't raise the money... The majority of it was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Hoglund. Coach Price is even quoted as saying there is no University of Kansas money being used.

Also, wouldn't you like the athletes to be able to practice outside as early as possible? With turf they are able to get out there asap and practice earlier.

You may be interested in the looks of things, but you should realize the importance of it all. The turf field is going to help Kansas move in the right direction.

bdouble 7 years, 3 months ago

Have you seen the improved clubhouse? Apparently not.

hailtoku 7 years, 3 months ago

Yes, I have.

Have you seen our "improved clubhouse" in comparison with other clubhouses across the country?

I don't understand how our fan base can be so blind to what our facilities actually are- mediocre. Sub-par in fact.

Our football stadium is the laughing stock of the Big 12 and one of the worst in the country. Our baseball and softball diamonds are nothing you wouldn't see at a private high school and our tennis courts belong next to a public pool. Hell, Anschutz pavilion is nothing more than a warehouse (and used as one by KU facilities) with astro-turf.

KU fans need to start questioning and examining how our money is spent.

bdouble 7 years, 3 months ago

Didn't say anything about Memorial Stadium, and yes, our softball facility is a joke ... but Hoglund is one of the nicer venues in the Big 12.

But really, what do you expect?

KU fans can't even fill the "laughing stock" of a football stadium - do you want a bigger venue that will feature more empty seats?

And very few show up to softball, soccer or tennis. Face it, the fan base plays a role in determining how money is spent - and very few KU fans seem to care about the non-revenue sports.

hailtoku 7 years, 3 months ago

"do you want a bigger venue that will feature more empty seats?"

On the contrary- I want a smaller, more modern, accommodating stadium.

See Minnesota's TCF Bank for a reference of where KU football needs to go. Smaller, nicer stadium brings in better recruits, brings in more fans.

Same goes for baseball. How many recruits tell their friends how cool the artificial grass is? None. They tell them about the clubhouse, dugouts, practice facilities, stadium, etc...

bdouble 7 years, 3 months ago

True. But baseball players also want to get out and play. The new turf will help them do that earlier and earlier every spring.

gorilla10 7 years, 3 months ago

hailtoku- Can you tell me which private high schools in KS have a nicer field than Hoglund????

gorilla10 7 years, 3 months ago

Puggy- As a former college baseball player you are right in a sense. I think most enjoy playing on a true grass field. Thats how it is in the pros, and thats the way it should be. There is a huge advantage to turf though, we can practice almost any time no matter what the weather has done 5 minutes before practice(except snow). There is no field work to be done, no tarp needs to be pulled before practice and games and everyone gets a nice smooth bounce which cuts back on errors not to mention it looks great year round!!!! Advantage- Turf

This money was raised by KU baseball, for KU baseball! Quit bringing the football field and the track into everything KU goes about improving, its getting annoying and the track clearly is staying for a while....

gorilla10 7 years, 3 months ago

Turf is one addition that makes KU baseball more similar to that of a warm weather state.....yeah it will still be cold, I know, but field conditions will be better more often throughout the year....

bdouble 7 years, 3 months ago

iahawkfan is spot on. The team had to practice indoors about 11 times this spring because of snow, ice, and other lousy weather - which really hurt them when it came time to face live pitching and take actual infield practice.

In Kansas, where you can't play all year with grass, turf could be huge for recruitment.

Andy Tweedy 7 years, 3 months ago

gorilla, you should be pleased at how many people are reading this article, not frustrated with the mention of the track. As we just learned through conference realignment, football pays the bills. I will say this..had the baseball facility been this nice when I was in school, I might have gone to more games. As it was, I only went twice. One time to see Robin Ventura and the other to see a friend who played for Nebraska. We had better facilities in high school back then. This field looks like a pretty nice setup!

gorilla10 7 years, 3 months ago

1990- Football didn't pay this bill for the baseball team now did it??? The track would be great to have taken out but its not on the agenda as of right now. Lets just hope the Football team is taking the right turn this fall! When we start improving then the upgrades will come. I wish fans cared half as much about the team than they do about the dang track. Lets look OVER the track this fall and focus on what counts......

Benjamin Piehler 7 years, 3 months ago

WOOO LETS GO GERMANY! wait. what was this article about?

kckmedic 7 years, 3 months ago

I agree that we shouldn't be worried about the track in regard to a story about baseball stadium renovations. And one thing that everyone needs to realize concerning the track is that we can't remove the track until we have a new one built. There are plans to build the new olympic village by the ballpark that will be the venue for soccer, track, baseball, softball, etc. The problem is that it is going to be built with donations and we all know what the present state of the economy has done to donations. Think about the fact that the Gridiron Club was supposed to be finished before this football season. It will all come in time.

Wildhawk2198 7 years, 3 months ago

Let's all keep our eye on the ball here. We need to be finding the best conference that is going to fit KU. When the current TV contract runs out and everyone left in the "Big XII" feels like telling texas where to go and how to get there KU needs to be ready. Upgrading all facilities is going to help.

PS. KU will worry about that track when football sells out every game for the next 10 years. (I do agree with KCKMEDIC though. It will also take donations to get that track removed. If you want it gone so bad, make sure you donate to KU!)

kranny 7 years, 3 months ago

Agree with the turf. Yes the pros play on grass but go to spring training where it's warm and grass grows year round. This will be an advantage.

Kman_blue 7 years, 3 months ago

I can't wait to see how this looks when it's all said and done. I drove by just the other day and couldn't believe just how deep they had dug out the old field. I almost thought maybe someone found some archeology find and they were excavating it.

Oh and those talking about our football stadium needing to be smaller and newer, you all realize we've averaged more than a sellout for the 2 and a half years, right? I know lots of people have been leaving at half or in the 3rd quarter, which is a joke, but they still bought tickets and filled it up for the 1st half. We need to upgrade the stadium some more, but making it smaller is the opposite of where it needs to go. Hopefully our new coach takes the momentum our old coach built and then started squandering and keeps building it up higher and higher and more fans stay the entire game!

Back to baseball, Hoglund has never looked better these past couple of years and it's much better than when I was in school. Glad to see it continuing to improve. Maybe one of our recent MLB players will contribute a good chunk of change to help get the Olympic village going and/or more improvements to Hoglund!

Kman_blue 7 years, 3 months ago

That should read, "for the last 2 and a half years".

boomrsoonr26 7 years, 3 months ago

Here in Wichita the Shockers put in a all turf field, minus the mound. At first there was trepidation, but slowly the players and fans came to the realization that if you want to compete with the southern schools in baseball, you need to start at the same time.

Grass is super high maintainence, and cant be trusted in the late winter to survive all the off season trotting. Youll like it!

BTW- remove that stupid track like Texas did

Dan Cook 7 years, 3 months ago

This is huge for KU baseball. Anybody that thinks keeping grass is the correct plan for KU has no idea what they're talking about. You can't make up for lost practice days and early season games. You must be "on the field" to truly improve the product. I'd love to have grass, but it's simply not feasible in Lawrence, Ks.

Of course, it would also help to have a closer that doesn't blow his arm out, which leads to something like 6 horribly blown saves.

DalTXJayhawk 6 years, 10 months ago

Meanwhile, Free State High School has a nicer softball field. Same concept as baseball, football, ... You have to have good facilities to recruit good players.

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