If you build it . . . SFA expanding, improving athletic facilities; asking boosters to open wallets
Feb. 21, 2007
NACOGDOCHES - From a fresh coat of paint, to new scoreboards and what is projected to be the granddaddy of them all -- a new baseball and softball park that is earmarked for completion in 2010 -- SFA's sports facilities are being upgraded in an effort to meet the needs of students.
"If you build it, he will come."
The SFA football team has completed its third season on the 'Momentum 51' surface that was installed in 2004 at Homer Bryce Stadium, and the track and field surface was resurfaced last summer.
The memorable line from the 1989 baseball movie "Field of Dreams" fits SFA's theme to build facilities that entice students to leave their hometowns or cities to continue their athletic career and get their education at a school in the Piney Woods.
"We've seen an arms race among Division I schools," SFA athletics director Robert Hill said. "We don't have to have gold-plated fixtures. But there is a need to stay up with the times. It's what kids expect, nowadays. We are recruiting athletes from public schools in Texas who have better facilities than most of the schools in the Southland Conference."
Building new and upgrading existing athletic facilities come with a cost.
As a result, Hill said the SFA athletic department is attempting to become "more self-sufficient in ways of finding sources of revenue," he said.
Improvements in the past three years at SFA have included revenue raised from corporate sponsorships and contributions through the Varsity Club, which is called "the principal fundraising arm of Stephen F. Austin Athletics" in the school's sports media guides.
For SFA's facilities of purple and white to shine, boosters are being asked to open their wallets.
"In the long range, you look at athletic facilities being more privately funded," Hill said. "That's a trend we're going to see. We have to grow. The university has just so much income."
Bo Pilgrim Park
The largest upcoming project -- a $14 million construction project of Bo Pilgrim Park -- will be the largest financial outlay of a sports facility at SFA, costing more than Homer Bryce Stadium (1973) and William R. Johnson Coliseum (1974).
Hill said the athletic department will be responsible for 25 percent of the total -- $3.5 million -- and the university the remaining balance through the sale of bonds.
Bo Pilgrim donated $1 million to the effort, which gave Pilgrim the facilities naming rights.
The school recently announced a $750,000 gift made by the estate of Robert C. Banks to establish the Bob and Dot Banks Baseball Stadium at Bo Pilgrim Park.
The facility will include a baseball park that will seat 1,500 fans, a softball park that will seat 600 fans, and a field house that will be home to both teams.
The 29,000-square-foot field house will offer office space, meeting rooms, training and weight rooms and dressing rooms, as well as an indoor practice area and a maintenance garage.
A study funded by the Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation and conducted by ImpactDataSource of Austin, predicted the park would been an assset to Nacogdoches' economy, with an estimated $11.8 million coming in annually.
"If the community embraces the positive impact the ballpark is expected to have on Nacogdoches, I feel that key individuals and businesses will step forward with the private funds needed to get the project built," Hill said.
SFA president Dr. Baker Pattillo set a January 2008 fundraising deadline for the project.
"If we do not have private donations in hand by then, the university will re-evaluate the project," he said.
Sports Medicine and Academic Center
SFA's Sports Medicine and Academic Center debuted during the 2005 school year.
Located behind the field house -- in the area that once was the weight room -- the facility is instrumental in meeting the training and rehabilitation and academic needs of students.
The 4,500-square-foot training facility features four sections of training (taping and bandaging, hydrotherapy, treatment and rehabilitation) and includes a highly regarded graduate and undergraduate education programs.
SFA is one of two schools in Texas (Texas Tech is the other) and one of only 16 schools in the nation with an accredited master's program in athletic training.
The facility is under the direction of long-time trainer Sandy Miller and his staff of three full-time trainers and three graduate assistants.
The academic center, which is adjacent to the medicine facility, provides student-athletes access to private study halls and individual tutoring areas and includes a computer lab.
Johnson Coliseum has a new look this season, with new scoreboards overhead and a fresh coat of paint on the wall separating the playing area from the fans.
The facility includes new Daktronics equipment, including a video board and new advertising panels, and a digital display on the scorer's table.
The $1.4 million tag for the new features was funded by revenue generated from corporate sponsors, Hill said.
The men's and women's basketball locker rooms were also renovated, as a part of the cleanup from the facility housing evacuees from Hurricane Rita in 2005.
SFA's press box at Homer Bryce Stadium is relatively new, with media and Lumberjack boosters watching games from the new facility since the start of the 2003 football campaign.
Along with an expanded area for the press, the facility includes luxury suites, including the Touchdown Club, which includes suites with seating and dining areas for major football boosters.
The school picked up much of the $3.5 million tag for the facility with a contract with Coca Cola eventually paying the money back to the school.
The football team has completed its third season on the "Momentum 51" surface that was installed in 2004.
According to SFA's media guide, the new field features 2 1/2-inch blades of polyethylene grass woven into a sturdy backing material that is filled with a mixture of kiln-dried sand and ground rubber pellets.
The approximately $250,000 price tag for the surface, which is warranted for eight years, was gifted to SFA by a former Lumberjack football lettermen.
Track and field
* The track and field surface at Homer Bryce Stadium and Fletcher Garner Track was resurfaced last summer.
* Improvements have been made to the Walter C. Todd Agricultural Research & Equine Center on U.S. Hwy. 59 North, since the sport was added in the fall of 2005.
* Approximately $250,000 worth of improvements went into renovating old SFA baseball field at the city baseball complex.
Now called Jaycees Field, the facility will be home to the SFA baseball team, until the new park is completed.
Hill said future needs include expanding and renovating the field house, which was last upgraded in 1988.
Improvements will include renovating the dressing rooms, coaches offices and meeting rooms.
Hill said much of the revenue for this project will come from the football and basketball teams playing recent "guarantee" games.
The football team netted $300,000 last season for playing Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., and $150,000 for playing Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla.
While there is not a division "guarantee" opponent on next year's schedule, Hill said the Lumberjacks will play TCU in Fort Worth in 2008.
Hill said the Lumberjack and Ladyjack basketball teams play guarantee games every year.
The typical guarantee for the Lumberjacks to travel to play a team from a larger conference is between $45,000 and $65,000.
The typical take for the Ladyjacks to play up in competition is $5,000 to $15,000.
Hill said Nacogdoches needs SFA, and SFA needs Nacogdoches for the school to continue to make improvements in athletic facilities.
"Without athletics, I believe Nacogdoches would suffer," he said. "There would definitely be a impact on Nacogdoches without intercollegiate athletics.
"It's our job to sell the community