When Boston College announced its facilities enhancement initiative, three major components stood out in the centerpiece. The first was the new indoor practice facility for football, which for all intents and purpose. The second was a new rec plex, which will take the bulk of the funding to replace when a new 240K-square foot facility is built. And the third was a new baseball stadium which will eventually replace Shea Field as the home of the Eagles.
Following the announcement, I talked about the need for the right facility, that the building can't just be a building for a building's sake. In order to compete in baseball in the ACC, there's a need to get it right.
Two weekends into the ACC schedule, we can see a little bit of what the varying degrees of stadiums and training grounds exist. BC's played two series in conference - one at NC State and one at Clemson. Both present very different case studies from which to examine.
NC State plays their games at Doak Field at Dail Stadium, a stadium first opened in 1966. 14 years ago, Doak Field underwent a $6 million renovation that enhanced it and brought it up to speed with some of their ACC brethren. The grandstands were completed razed, the playing field leveled, and draining and irrigation installed.
Once the infrastructure of the field itself was completed, NC State built around it, building a new field house and batting cages, along with the grandstands. The infrastructure of the stadium put a 1,300-square foot players' clubhouse behind the stadium with direct access to the first base home dugout, much in the mold of professional stadiums. They built a coaches' locker room, a players' lounge, training room, equipment room, umpires' locker room, coaches' offices, and reception area. In addition, they constructed both indoor and outdoor batting cages.
The construction forced NC State to play 18 games on the road during the 2003 season, playing 10 games at a field that was very much under construction. They returned full time the next season to play in a 3,000 seat stadium featuring 2,500 chairback seats.
Prior to the renovation, NC State had been in decline, failing to make the NCAA Tournament in three straight seasons. In addition, they hadn't had a winning record in the league for five straight years.
Since the completion of the renovation, the Wolfpack have finished under .500 in the ACC only twice.
This past weekend, the Eagles went to Clemson to take on the Tigers, a team considered a centerpiece program of the ACC. The Tigers are a different case than the Wolfpack in that they're one of the best attended, best supported programs in college baseball. Playing at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, they have a crown jewel type field in an aging, venerable stadium.
As the arms race in college sports advances, the Tigers lost some ground over the past few years. After going to the College World Series in 2010, they've continuously gone to the NCAA Tournament but failed to advance out of a regional. In terms of their ACC record, they've been slightly passed and no longer contend at the top of the Atlantic Division (though they've finished second and third).
This past summer, the playing surface at Kingsmore Stadium was updated, installing a new grass field and new drainage installed. Starting this year and continuing through the next summers, however, Clemson will add even more infrastructure for their players.
Behind the first base dugout, the Tigers will install a players' lounge, clubhouse, and baseball facility that should rocket them towards the top of the nation, and it'll give an old stadium a needed facelift that should close the gap between the other stadiums.
Looking at NC State and Clemson, there are two very different case studies. For starters, the Tigers have a 6,000-seat stadium that draws in the top 10 in the nation, an answer from the ACC to the support enjoyed by a place like LSU. There's no need for BC to go and build Kingsmore Stadium in Chestnut Hill simply because the Eagles don't have that type of support. Arguing otherwise is futile and isn't really an argument to begin with.
As for NC State, though, there's something to be said for saying, "We should be building a players' lounge, a clubhouse, dedicated locker rooms, a tunnel to the home dugout, and indoor batting cages/training areas."
The facilities announcement doesn't change a sheer fact about the present state of Boston College baseball. Playing at Shea Field conjures up the trailer from the movie Moneyball, a movie that produced one of my favorite lines of all-time:
"There are rich teams. There are poor teams. Then there's 50 feet of crap. Then there's us."
Compared to what's out there right now, Boston College is stringing together success. They've taken their negatives and criticisms and turned them into positives and opportunities. They've won because of their struggles, not in spite of. But that doesn't change that this situation has to change.
With the opportunity in front of BC, I'm using the first two weekends to serve as a reminder that building for the sake of building simply won't work. Building Shea Field with turf over on Brighton Campus would set the program back even more than staying in the current situation because it would just band-aid the current situation with a field that's still inadequate for the ACC. BC baseball is punching above its weight, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have a chance to get up into the weight class they should be fighting in.
In addition, there's no guarantee there would be another stadium on the horizon, so this is the one chance the athletic department has to get it right. Throughout this season, when the Eagles take to the road, the athletic department should be prospecting, figuring out what would work and shaving off some things that wouldn't. So when the plans are unveiled for the stadium, it becomes something Birdball can build on, not continue to try and win in spite of.