Snow covered the ground in Morgantown, but baseball was very much the topic of conversation at the WVU Coliseum. West Virginia University Assistant Athletic Director Mike Parsons joined New York-Penn League President Ben Hayes and Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O'Conner to discuss plans for the new ballpark.
Part of the news conference was intended to spread the word that the New York-Penn League plans to relocate one of its current teams to Morgantown should the ballpark plans become finalized.
What does this mean for WVU? It means the University would have a new ballpark to call home. Currently the Mountaineers are playing Big 12 "home" games in Charleston and Beckley.
Parsons indicated the stadium would likely not be ready until the 2015 season for the Mountaineers. He said WVU has a two-year agreement with Charleston and Beckley to use those stadiums, which covers the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
The New York-Penn League and Minor League Baseball have requirements of a stadium in order to house a minor league team. Those requirements include an indoor batting cage, the size of dugouts and the size of clubhouses, etc. All of those requirements should push this new stadium to be one of the best in the Big 12
"One of the things you see as you go through the Big 12 schools is that they have great facilities," Parsons said. "We know that we have to step up to keep up with the Big 12."
"West Virginia will take a big step toward the top of the Big 12 with this stadium," O'Connor said. "This is a physical plant for the players. It will provide great amenities for the players, coaches and fans. This will be a complete baseball experience."
The stadium will also likely have at least three clubhouses, perhaps as many as four or more. One would house the WVU baseball team. One would be occupied by the New York-Penn League team. One would be designated for visitors and there could be potentially one more for Fairmont State, which is expressing an interest in using the new stadium as well.
Having four clubhouses would also make it more likely that the stadium would hold regional or state tournaments.
Parsons did not say what would happen to Hawley Field, West Virginia's current on-campus baseball facility. Parsons also did not know whether the stadium would hold natural grass or artificial turf.
"Those go to the criteria developer," Parsons said. "All of those sort of details have yet to be determined."
A criteria developer would collaborate with WVU and the New York-Penn League to design the stadium to fit the wishes of both parties.
"He will sit down and put everything on paper," Parsons explained. "What is the square footage, what is the footprint of the stadium? What is the parking capacity going to be? All of those will be determined and translate into what the stadium is going to cost. He will facilitate all of the things that will go into the stadium for the pro team and for the college teams."
The excitement for a new stadium is certainly growing within WVU and is spreading. Certainly better facilities should help in the world of recruiting.
"If you look at college baseball in the last 20 years, every time a program has built a facility like this the program has made an immediate jump," WVU Baseball Coach Randy Mazey said. "This is probably the single biggest baseball event to happen in Morgantown baseball history."
The new stadium would be located in the University Town Centre and will overlook the city of Morgantown and West Virginia University from the bluff above the Monongahela River. Plans call for a new interchange to be built off I-79 to provide easier access to the stadium.
There are still a few hurdles standing in the way of breaking ground on the new stadium.
"It still needs to go through the house and of course the Governor's approval," Parsons stated. "Then there's a few other administrative things that have to be done on campus to move it forward as well. It does need to come back to the county commission one more time. It will also need to be approved by the WVU Board of Governors."
None of those hurdles are expected to get in the way. The new ballpark is expected to break ground in 2014 with WVU and the New York-Penn League looking to utilize the facility for the first time in 2015.