By BOB LEWIS
HOME RUN: Oklahoma State University’s new baseball complex will be among the finest in the nation when it opens in 2020.
A new $60 million baseball diamond under construction on Oklahoma State University’s Stillwater campus promises to be a real jewel.
School officials say the new facility is scheduled to open in 2020. For now, it is being called Baseball Stadium. Most observers, however, expect that name will change before the first pitch is made.
Reinforcing ’s promise to have one of the top facilities in the country, it will feature a number of luxury boxes behind home plate and down both the first and third base lines along with permanent seating for up to 6,500 fans along with tailgating tents. There will be an adjacent indoor practice facility, sports medicine area, clubhouse and 7,400-square-foot locker room. A 2,000-square-foot video board will sit atop the practice facility down the left field line.
The center field bleachers will have a “batter’s eye” which is comprised of a large piece of nonglare dark glass that fans can sit behind and have a full view of the field. The park will be the only one in the nation with this type of setup, school officials note.
For the convenience of visitors, a 365-degree concourse is equally as impressive.
“It’s time, actually a couple of years past time,” says Mark Poole, a former Cowboy standout and now president and chief operating officer at the First National Bank & Trust Co. of Broken Arrow.
Following high school, Poole was persuaded to leave his Arizona home in 1979 to hold down the catcher position on some of legendary Coach Gary Ward’s most successful teams. He played for two years and fans still cheer his team’s back-to-back Big Eight tournament championships and the day in 1981 when the Cowboys placed second in the College World Series.
That led to a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and the start of a journey he hoped would lead him to the big leagues. A disabling injury dashed that dream but turned out to be the launch pad for the financial services industry career he cherishes today.
Still an avid fan, Poole pointed out that in its day, the Reynolds stadium was one of the best in this part of the country. But times have changed and many top tier programs have invested in upgraded facilities leading him to believe the existing stadium no longer reflects the national status is working hard to achieve.
“I have a lot of great memories from games played at that old ballpark,” he says. “But I firmly believe this was a long overdue move that had to make to remain an elite program.
“To a large degree, college athletics have become showcases of facilities,” he notes. “To attract the kind of quality athletes you need to keep your program at the top, you need facilities that are as good or better than the other guy’s.”
Recruiting aside, Poole points to some very real dollars and cents reasons to support ’s new venture.
In their American Freshman National Norms 2012 survey, for example, researchers found that some 40 percent of students chose their college partly for its social life and 30 percent planned on playing intramural sports. Schools with large athletic programs tend to be meccas of social activity. Most students not only want a college education – they want the college experience.
Team spirit and its derivative fan loyalty – often referred to as branding – can infect a campus and a community.
Poole says universities like Oklahoma State don’t merely have sports teams – they have sports cultures that engulf surrounding towns and permeate their states.
For Oklahoma State, revenue from ads, sponsorships and branded novelty items nets the athletic department millions of dollars every year.
An added plus, researchers note, is the fact participants in athletic programs develop good habits of fitness, competitiveness, drive and discipline that follow them into their future as they become able employees and successful businesspeople. And the friendships they form with teammates often follow far off the field. Even students merely shouting from the sidelines can be united in a common bond and develop lifelong commitments to their fellow students and their school.
“The bottom line of all this is the undeniable fact that ‘success attracts money and money attracts success. Alumni want to be associated with winning programs.’ As a key piece of the athletics village concept that is a big part of ’s dreams, this park is a very good investment,” Poole says.