Photo Gallery: Designing with Omaha in Mind
Each year, nearly 300 NCAA Division I baseball teams begin their off-season workouts in the fall with the goal of reaching the College World Series in Omaha come June. Walk into most collegiate baseball locker rooms, weight rooms and clubhouses around the country and one will find inspirational messages like, “There are No Free Trips to Omaha” and “The Road to Omaha Starts Here”.
While each team has the same ultimate goal of playing at TD Ameritrade Park in June, they also need a facility which will prepare them for that success. In 2009, the NCAA imposed limits on university baseball scholarships and roster sizes, leading to increased competition for recruiting. Now more than ever, coaches and teams know they need to have the best ballpark amenities, training spaces and clubhouses in order to attract the best student-athletes.
In 2016, the Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers won the national championship in its first-ever trip to the College World Series. Coincidentally, Populous and the university also completed renovations to its ballpark, Springs Brooks Stadium, in 2015. In similar fashion, the University of South Carolina won the first of its two back-to-back titles in 2010, one year after opening its new ballpark, Founders Park in 2009. While the benefits offered by a new ballpark do not guarantee a championship the following year, a high-performance facility is an essential piece of the puzzle.
Like their basketball and football program counterparts, baseball programs require their own team rooms, lounges, study areas and meeting spaces in order to increase the performance of their current student-athletes and recruit the best of the next generation. To address these needs, Populous’ collegiate ballpark designers approach each project by “designing with Omaha in mind”. For example, by working closely with the University of South Carolina on Founders Park, the new on-campus ballpark added convenience for fans and student-athletes alike. Drawing features from major league facilities such as top-of-the-line clubhouse and training spaces in addition to a 360-degree concourse, Founders Park reset the bar for collegiate ballpark design.
“Founders Park was designed to improve the fan and student-athlete experience beyond the level of any other collegiate ballpark,” said Al Harris, Designer of Founders Park. “From one of the best clubhouses in the country to the proximity of fans to the on-field action, Founders Park reinvented the collegiate baseball experience.”
Looking ahead, the Carnegie Hall of college baseball, Mississippi State University’s Dudy Noble Field broke ground last month to begin extensive renovations to their facility. In 2016, the University added the largest video board in all of collegiate baseball, and future plans include a new clubhouse, training room, equipment room, film room and locker room.
By the time athletes reach the diamond in February, teams are squarely focused on Omaha. But the mental and physical preparation begins on the first day of preseason practice. Want to increase your team’s chances of reaching Omaha in the postseason? Make sure your ballpark is fit for a champion.
Jason Michael Ford has played an integral role on the Populous ballpark team for more than a decade. His experience and insights span a variety of community facilities to collegiate ballparks like University of San Diego’s Fowler Park, University of Michigan Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex and Boshamer Stadium at the University of North Carolina. To learn more about his approach to designing memorable spaces, send him a note.