SFA to accept architect, contractor proposals for baseball-softball complex
Nov. 3, 2005
NACOGDOCHES - Shouts of "play ball" may be heard at a Stephen F. Austin State University baseball-softball complex in as little as two years after the Board of Regents approved a location for the facility, which could hit an economic home run for Nacogdoches.
The recent board approval of the location hinges on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' consent because 2.9 acres of the 22-acre site at Starr Avenue and University Drive is designated wetlands. The university is working with the Corps, however, and expects its endorsement to be forthcoming.
"We have, at this point, tentative verbal agreement that the land would be suitable," said John Rulfs, director of the SFA physical plant.
The university is proceeding to solicit proposals from architects and construction firms, and Rulfs anticipates the administration will forward a recommendation for both to the board's Building and Grounds Committee, which could make a recommendation to the full board as early as January.
"Because of the nature of what we're doing, we would like to have the architect work closely with the contractor," he said.
Meantime, regents and university administrators are visiting other universities to look at similar facilities, including a recently opened baseball-softball complex at Sam Houston State University.
"Theirs is probably as good as we have in our league," said Lee Brittain, SFA assistant physical plant director. "It's probably as good as anything in the Big 12 but not as big."
Rulfs said administrators cannot determine the cost of SFA's complex until the scope and actual design are complete. In addition to separate baseball and softball parks, preliminary plans include walking trails and up to 500 parking spaces that also would supplement parking at William R. Johnson Coliseum.
"We're trying not to make just a ballpark but an improvement to the whole area," he said.
SFA Baseball Coach Donnie Watson envisions scheduling 60 NCAA baseball and softball games per year there and attracting teams from such powerhouses as Baylor University, Texas Tech University and the University of Texas at Austin.
Typically a baseball team will travel with at least 32 people and play games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he said. He projects those 32 would occupy 20 or more hotel rooms for three nights and buy a total of 96 meals. Add administrators, families and fans accompanying the visiting team, and those numbers easily could double, Watson said.
Figure in expenditures by visitors coming to town for NCAA softball games and local fans attending games and revenue generated by high school and junior college playoffs and tournaments, conference and regional tournaments, and camps and clinics, Watson calculates that a $1 million per year economic impact is a conservative estimate.
Pam Fitch, executive director of the Nacogdoches County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said she could not predict how much revenue the proposed complex would generate. A visitor who comes to the city for a day, however, typically spends $85, and that average goes to $115 if the visitor stays overnight, she said.
"The proposed stadium will provide a wonderful opportunity for SFA and Nacogdoches to host tournaments and events that will directly benefit our local economy," Fitch said. "We are extremely excited about the opportunity to work with SFA to promote the proposed stadium as a site for regional and state tournaments that have the potential of attracting thousands of visitors to our community and generating millions of dollars of economic benefit for Nacogdoches."
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board also would have to approve the project, Rulfs said.
"We hope to start construction in 2006," he said. "If we did that, it would be available for fall ball in 2007. But again that is very, very tentative."
Meanwhile, the SFA baseball team will play at a city of Nacogdoches baseball park near the Nacogdoches County Exposition Center.