New baseball field just the latest project at Concordia University
Under overcast skies with a brisk wind and temperatures hovering in the low 40s Tuesday afternoon, Concordia University President Dr. Patrick Ferry summed things up perfectly.
"It's a typical day for Concordia baseball," he said.
In terms of weather, Ferry was spot on; most of the state's collegiate baseball programs, like many in the Midwest, have to find ways to deal with the often unpredictable spring weather.
Other than the forecast, though, this was no typical day for the Falcons baseball team.
Prior to Concordia's scheduled game against No. 22 Carthage College, the school broke ground on the future home for the school's baseball program. The facility, scheduled to open in time for next season, will include a state-of-the-art, all-synthetic field, the first of its kind in Wisconsin.
"The only organic portion of the field will be the pitcher's mound," Dr. Rob Barnhill, Concordia Athletic Director, said. "The rest will be all turf."
The artificial surface, already installed at the university's soccer and football facilities, will allow the baseball team to play in just about any kind of weather, save for lightning. Instead of delaying games due to standing water or even snow, the surface will feature improved drainage and in the event of snowfall, can be plowed right off.
Longtime Concordia baseball coach Val Keiper said he wouldn't miss the old field very much. Most game days, Keiper and his team arrive hours before the scheduled first pitch to help prepare the playing surface.
Earlier this year, he and his players worked to ready the infield only to have issues with big puddles in the outfield.
"This is going to be a great upgrade for us," Keiper said. "I don't even bring recruits out to see the (current) field. But just telling them about what we have planned, it's making a huge difference."
Already, Concordia's new field is drawing attention. The Northern Athletics Conference will hold its 2012 and 2013 baseball tournaments there and the hope is to eventually host Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association post-season games in Mequon.
"It's not just for the university," Barnhill said. "It will become a real asset to the community."
The baseball field project is just a portion of an overall larger growth project for the university, which sits on the shore of Lake Michigan and has an undergraduate enrollment of about 2,000 – approximately 500 of which participate in one of the school's 23 intercollegiate sports.
The "Renewed by the Waters" campaign began with restoration of the lake bluff upon which the campus is located. Access to the beach, a new amphitheater and restored wetland environments were part of the first phase.
Phase II was completed last summer when the Center for Environmental Stewardship was opened. The facility features classroom and lecture space, laboratories and other education amenities serving the university's Environmental Studies programs.
The building recently earned LEED Platinum certification, the highest possible rating for environmentally-friendly construction.
Currently, the school is finishing construction on a new home for its School of Pharmacy, which began in accepting students last fall. The projected, estimated to cost between $12 and $15 million, in time for the start of fall semester.
"The athletic fields are part of the larger, overall and comprehensive plan," Ferry said. "We'd like more people to take advantage of the opportunity to watch these young men and women compete and really get to know Concordia.
"We think there is more room for growth and investing in our athletics program and facilities is one way to make that happen."
Maybe they could rent that field to UWM, so the Panthers don't have to play on that horrendous field they call home now. Can somebody please tell the athletic dept at UWM that they are fine for basketball facilities, but their baseball program is an embarassment?
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