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First pieces of Athletics District set to open

When Lelo Prado was hired as head coach of the USF baseball team in 2006, one of the first things he said during his first press conference was, “Don’t tell me about the stadium. We will build a stadium … I promise you that. It will happen.”

USF had been playing home games at Red McEwen Field since the 1967 season. Despite expansions in 1976, 1982 and 1997, the outdated facility had only metal bleachers for spectators. In June of 2010, Red McEwen Field was demolished, making way for the extravagant new stadium that now stands on its footprint. The USF Baseball Stadium is set to open Friday night at 7.

“This is something that USF has needed for a long time. It’s a beautiful college ballpark,” Prado said. “If you’re a USF baseball player, you should be really excited about going out there this weekend.”

Elon University (3-1) will have the honor of opposing USF (0-3) during the stadium’s opening weekend. After Friday night’s game, the teams will meet again Saturday at 7 p.m. before closing the series Sunday at 1 p.m.

“We’re facing a good baseball team. They were in regionals the last four years,” Prado said. “It’s exciting, but with our fans here, and the excitement, (our players) should be juiced up. If they’re not, they need to go somewhere else.”

Elon has the potential to score a lot of runs, but also to allow them. N.C. posted 17 runs on the Phoenix in its season opener before Elon replied with 12 runs of its own in the series finale. Elon won a 13-10 shootout over High Point on Wednesday.

“(Elon) is going to play hard. They’re going to run. They’re well coached and we’ve got to play better than we did last weekend,” Prado said.

The new stadium has permanent seating for 1,500 spectators and additional berm seating around the field. Some areas around the edges of the facility will be closed to the public during opening weekend as non-essential construction continues, according to the USF Athletics Department.