Liberty University unveiled their new multi-million dollar baseball facility against Penn State in late February, and the stadium has hosted West Virginia, Duke, Virginia and Maryland in its initial few months. Liberty Baseball Stadium gets its first big test next week, though, as it welcomes the 2013 Big South Baseball Championship.
(Photo: Liberty Baseball Stadium from beyond the right field fence and bullpen. Photo by Brian Wilmer.)
The top eight teams in the conference will make their way to Lynchburg, Virginia to compete for the championship (and accompanying NCAA tournament berth) beginning May 21st. The facility that awaits them is still receiving the finishing touches, though the eventual beauty is making itself apparent.
Constructed to replace the previous on-campus facility, Worthington Stadium, the new Liberty Baseball Stadium features 2,500 chairback seats, with room to host additional fans on berms down each base line. The right field berm is sodded and complete as of five days prior to the tournament, with the left field berm soon to follow. Each fixed seat is a hard plastic chairback seat, allowing a reasonable level of comfort and leg room.
The concourse is spacious, with an ample view of the field throughout. This allows fans to make concession and souvenir purchases without missing any of the action on the field. One concession stand is currently open behind home plate, though additional stands will open as the stadium reaches completion. The restrooms are also near the concession areas, with all of the modern amenities one would expect to find in such facilities.
Central Virginia is an area known to receive occasional heavy rains, and this was another detail addressed during the construction of the facility. The field surface is AstroTurf, allowing for quick and easy drainage and helping to minimize weather delays. The surface plays in a consistent manner, eliminating bad hops and other issues that may affect conventional fields.
A video scoreboard is available behind the left-center field wall, showing information on the current batter, the batting team's lineup, occasional commercials, weather updates, funny video clips, replays and much more. The scoreboard itself is clearly visible from any seat, displaying the game's line score, ball/strike/out counts, the current batter's number, hit/error indicator and speed (in miles per hour) of the previous pitch. The scoreboard is on par with many top college programs, and offers more than many minor league parks.
Finally, the park will contain a number of expected creature comforts for players (improved locker room and practice areas), media (top-notch press box) and VIPs (two luxury suites), but will also address the comfort and entertainment of those fans who are not in a seat. A picnic area will be available for families, along with a playground for the younger fans. A brick patio (which the university specifies is 3,000 square feet) has also just been completed down the right field line, This patio will feature a fire pit, which is not commonly found in amateur or professional facilities, and is also a nice nod to the school's nickname, the Flames.
As universities continue to renovate their existing facilities and open new parks, the battle to produce the "latest and greatest" in stadiums is never-ending. Liberty draws on inspirations from larger schools and their own athletic dreams to offer fans an experience rarely found in amateur baseball, making Liberty Baseball Stadium a pin that should be added to your baseball travel map. With conference mate Coastal Carolina University bringing their own stadium online for the 2014 season, the Big South Conference continues its ascent up the college baseball ladder.