New stadiums almost ready to open

When Central Connecticut University’s softball team visits Tampa on Feb. 24, it will be the first game in a new era for the South Florida softball and baseball teams.

That’s the date the USF softball team is scheduled to move into its new home in the southeastern part of campus. The baseball team will step into a new, adjacent stadium shortly after.

“The original plan for baseball and softball was to remodel and upgrade the existing baseball stadium,” said Bill Holster, senior project manager for R.R. Simmons Construction Company. “Softball was going on the east side of Sycamore in a bowl stadium with aluminum bleachers.”

When USF announced they were building two new stadiums, different construction companies placed bids for the job. R.R. Simmons won the project and a group of staff worked to design the structures.

Holster oversaw the design and construction of the stadiums, which were both built on one construction site. Between the two stadiums is a concourse featuring restrooms, concessions and souvenir stands.

“We had the vision to rotate baseball 90 degrees and put softball right next to it,” he said. “That way they shared utilities and concessions. Instead of having two separate facilities in two parts of campus, we combined them.”

The new softball stadium sits just south of the new baseball stadium and features 700 permanent folding seats, a massive upgrade from the old metal bleachers, which had seating room for about 100 people.

The dugouts are the largest dugouts of any softball stadium in the country and feature bathrooms at the end of each dugout. The old stadium just had portable restrooms outside of the fence.

Fans sitting in the front row will be sitting at field level, separated from home plate by about 30 feet and a nylon safety net.

The new baseball stadium is even larger, with permanent seating for 1,500 fans and the capability to expand with temporary seating for Big East or NCAA Tournament games.

The baseball stadium also features massive dugouts and will see the Bulls move from the third base dugout to the first base dugout – the traditional side for home teams nationwide.

Both stadiums will feature full video scoreboards and state-of-the-art sound systems.

The scoreboard in the baseball stadium is particularly impressive. Situated in right centerfield above permanent concrete batting cages – a feature both stadiums now enjoy – the scoreboard will be 50 by 57 feet, according to Holster. The old baseball stadium, Red McEwen Field, did not have a video board.

Both stadiums also feature picnic areas, party decks and grassy berm areas where fans can sit for a unique ballpark experience.

Fans will also be able to watch from a raised concourse at press box height. This open-air breezeway will offer high-top tables and permanent seats overlooking the field.

The new stadiums are among the best in the nation and were built in the hopes that USF will be able to draw in more prized national recruits and help the programs compete for Big East and national championships, Holster said.

“Our design process took about six months, our construction starting about the 15th of June, so you’re looking at about eight months to do the whole facility,” he said.

R.R. Simmons is also constructing the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center and the new USF Soccer Stadium.