#10. WVU Baseball Gets New Digs
If you are a West Virginia University alumnus, take a moment to allow yourself into this reverie; it is summer session in Morgantown and while you are working and/or taking classes, life is as easy as it gets. You work just enough to have spare cash to blow downtown on a Tuesday night bar crawl. Wake up calls consist of, “Hey, it’s a day ending in ‘Y’, come over and barbecue on the porch”. Its noon, so why not? There is never any traffic, no waiting in lines, and never a concern about what to do. Summers in Morgantown as a student were the most simplistic times of my life and there is not a whole heck of a lot I would’ve changed to those days, but one common topic that came up in my circle while passing countless hours aimlessly basking in the sun while finishing off a case of Beer 30 Light, was “man, how great would it be to have a minor league team in Morgantown?”
Admittedly, I have been a life time baseball fan. Enough so, that I went to WVU and enrolled in Sport Management and worked my first two summers in baseball. The dream of working in the sport passed, but the passion for sitting back and watching the game did not subside. We spent hours discussing how profitable and enjoyable it would be to have a low level A team, or collegiate summer team playing in the afternoons. The team could easily be supported by the local community along with crafted specials aimed at attracting the colleges bums like us. Alas, the dreams of my yesteryear may finally come to fruition.
During this spring’s legislative session, talk arose of a special TIF plan to support the building of new ball park in Morgantown. While the infant proposal did not make it through the session, due to lack of details, it planted a seed that took sprout in the summer, finally gaining approval in early fall. A TIF, to all of those who like me thought that the term was a near cousin of a .JPEG, is a tax deferment incentive program, where local sales tax in a certain determined area can be set aside to fund a project deemed beneficial to the community at large, in this case the University Town Center. The benefit to this type of payment is that local taxpayer does not face increased rates to fund the project, rather the municipality simply forgoes a certain amount of revenue for the sake of the project.
Why did this project take form? Well, I would love to say that a fellow Field of Dreams enthusiast woke up one morning and decided to take the Bull Durham by the horns, but reality is that Hawley Field, the current home of Mountaineer Baseball, is a disgraceful stadium in comparison to our Big XII brethren. Frankly, many Division Three colleges and large high schools have far better accommodations. Whether this came as requirement passed down from the league as an entrance condition or it is purely part of the grand vision of Oliver Luck, the point is that Morgantown and WVU Baseball will finally be blessed with a product it deserves. It is not yet inked that a summer league will accompany the Mountaineers in possession of the stadium, but seems likely that it will occur.
Early rumors are that architects will borrow ideas from the Washington Wild Things park in Washington, Pa. Let me tell you, if you have never attended a Wild Things game, the park has a great atmosphere. Enough seating to handle a decent crowd, lawn seats on the third baseline if you prefer to stretch out, a great selection of beers and food with a grill down left field line, all accompanied with a decent scoreboard. With proposed sightlines overlooking the Mon, the Coliseum, and downtown Morgantown, it makes my sporting heart flutter. I hope the incorporate a local flavor by adding a local restaurant into the mix, such as Keglers at The Park or a second Mountain State Brewery. I am already planning out my trip plans for the first day/night doubleheader. Perhaps a Friday night game in Morgantown followed by an afternoon at Pittsburgh’s PNC park. No better way to spend a weekend in my book.
This stadium will not be the town’s greatest sporting attraction and it may take time before it becomes a popular destination. The stadium won’t make our nearby ACC rivals or Big XII opponents blush by making their stadiums pale in comparison. Morgantown does not need a spectacle that baseball teams of the south possess, at least not yet. There is little to no baseball culture currently in our Mountaineer Nation, but as they say in the aforementioned Kevin Costner classic Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”