The Clarion-Ledger / ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Oxford, MS April 2007—Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco has been involved in the stadium expansion process fron the very start. But when he saw the final renderings for the new and improved Oxford-Unviersity Stadium, Bianco even said, “Wow.”
Ole Miss announced its stadium expansion plans Wednesday, setting the foundation for a facility that will bump seating capacity to roughly 10,000 in time for the 2008 season. The project - which will be handled by Jackson-based architecture firm Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons - will cost between $10 to $12 million. But Bianco said it’s a small price for what he believes will be college baseball’s finest facility.
“It’s very impressive and it certainly has the ‘wow’ factor,” Bianco said. “It’s going to be the nicest stadium in the country when you consider everything. When you talk about a total baseball facility, I can’t imagine it being much better than this.”
The expansion will include 880 club level seats located between first and third base. Box seats will increase from 400 to 1,700. Chair back seats also will go from 2,951 to 6,000.
Ole Miss’ average attendance was 4,850 last season. The number peaked at 9,209 during the Super Regional against Miami. The stadium’s attendance record, which was set in a 12-10 win against Alabama on April 9, 2005, is 10,119. Ole Miss set a single-season record in 2006, drawing 184,331 in 40 home games.
So athletic director Pete Boone believes Ole Miss will be able to draw more fans on a regular basis in the new stadium. “It has been a metamorphosis,” Boone said. “When we first started, the concept was fewer seats and higher percentage premium seats. ... But when we looked again, we needed more seats for regular family baseball fans. Initially
we were looking at 4,500. It’s actually 6,000 now. It turned out well because it gives it more of the new, minor league looks than it did early on.”
The stadium expansion is the final piece of a baseball project that began last season. It already has included coaches offices, a new scoreboard and changes in the outfield seating areas. Bianco said the facility improvements are vital to the program’s growth. He said Ole Miss has always had a “beautiful stadium,” but the new and improved Oxford-Univeristy Stadium is more than just a luxury.
“I think the landscape of college baseball has been changing now for 20 years or so,” Bianco said. “As college baseball
continues to grow, the excitement and enthusiasm continues to increase, so do the stadiums.”