Athletics: If we renovate it, will they come?

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As part of a larger plan to renovate CSUN’s three most prominent athletic venues, baseball’s Matador Field could get more seating, an upgraded playing surface and a new scoreboard.

Coaches and administrators think these renovations could bring more fans to baseball games.

“The administration has been kind enough over the past several years to make improvements to the facility and have continued to do that for us,” said Steve Rousey, head coach of the CSUN baseball team.

While Rousey believes that nothing should be entirely redone on the field, which has a seating capacity of 1,200, he said there are some things that do need to be upgraded, such as the field’s playing surface.

Rousey said he wants to see the playing field leveled out, adding that the field should also have appropriate drainage capabilities.

Renovating the baseball field is part of the larger facilities improvement plan, financially headed by Dick Dull, the executive director for athletic facilities, who hopes that money raised through private donors will fund the necessary renovations to the Matadome, Matador Soccer Field and the baseball field.

According to Janet Lucas, interim athletic director at CSUN, renovations that will likely occur consist of upgrading the field’s playing surface, increasing seating capacity and replacing the scoreboard, backstop and outfield fences.

“In the past couple of years there have been some improvements, such as the stands, but like all fields (it) needs much more improvement,” said Johnny Coit, junior outfielder on the baseball team. “If you look at all other Division I colleges, the baseball fields are stadiums, with a baseball atmosphere. Our (field) is great, but is not like a Cal State Fullerton or Long Beach State’s stadium.”

“We have a stadium, but not much of a baseball atmosphere for the fans,” Coit added. “A renovated stadium would be great for recruiting (as well as) a way to bring out fans to the games.”

Coit believes, however, that Matador Field is a serviceable venue for baseball.

“It is the matter of the playing surface (being) good to play on or not,” he said. “Because of the (1994) earthquake, our field slopes down 2-3 feet in right field. There is a little drop off at the edge of the grass around where the second basemen plays.”

Coit said he would like to see improvements, such as increasing the number of seating along the first baseline, a new backstop, a leveled out playing surface, and an improved concession stand for fans.

Coit believes that if and when renovations are made, it will increase game attendance from mainly parents to student and community fans.

“We can have (CSUN) more involved in athletics than in the past,” Coit said.

The first game at Matador Field pinned CSUN against Claremont-Mudd on March 4, 1961. CSUN suffered a 10-8 defeat.

The first significant renovation to the field was in 1975 when the facility received a redesigned infield, an electronic scoreboard and batting cages. During that time CSUN had the first covered batting cages on a West Coast college campus.

Other renovations to the field included a protective chain link fence around the field, a small snack bar, concrete walkways and temporary bleachers that contained a press box.

In 1981 a clubhouse with lockers for players and coaches were installed next to the Matadors’ dugout.

During fall of 1993, CSUN spent nearly $26,000 renovating the infield. The existing turf was excavated and sod was added to the area along the baselines. The infield was graded, leveled, and a timed irrigation system was installed, all of which were completed months before the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

In 1996, the university added a state-of-the-art scoreboard featuring animated graphics. Upgrades to the baseball facility in 2004-05, the most recent changes at the stadium, added a new grandstand and press box, according to Lucas.

Lucas said she believes that an opportunity to help improve the baseball field will only continue to develop the venue for the baseball program.

However, Rousey said he has no grievances with the number of fans that attend the games.

“We have a small but loyal following, so I have absolutely no complaints about that, he said. “We hope to attract more of the community and more members of the student body to the games in (the) future.”

But Rousey believes larger numbers of fans will come to the field once the improvements are made.Lucas expressed a similar perspective.

“We are very proud of the loyal following that has been established for Matador baseball,” Lucas said. “Improving the facility and further developing our marketing efforts will assist in increasing the fan support and providing an exciting environment for our baseball program.”

With all the improvements made to Matador Field over the years, those involved in the upcoming renovations do not think it will be the last time improvements will be made to the field.

“I don’t think any field anywhere is exempt from future renovations,” Rousey said. “Times change and we change along with those times. For example, (if the) fan base increases and there’s not adequate seating, then you need to renovate, even though it might be the most beautiful, spectacular, first-rate seating available.”

“So, I wouldn’t say (the upcoming renovation) would be the final one,” he added.

Lucas said he believes that developing and maintaining a quality facility will be an ongoing project that will try to create and sustain the kind of venue that gives a competitive advantage to the team and an enjoyable environment for the fans.

“What we’re trying to do is raise the money to upgrade the facility as a whole and make our product as a facility and as a baseball team more attractive to the community and the student body, our potential fans out there,” Rousey said.

John Barundia can be reached at jcb44123@csun.edu.