As an NCAA Division II school, Lee University doesn’t typically garner sports headlines like Division I darlings Duke or Alabama. However, people have definitely taken notice of the school’s investment in its baseball stadium.
The school recently made the move from NAIA to Division II and as a part of that shift, its president made a commitment to upgrade it baseball facilities. The team’s original facility dated back to 1996 and was not up to DII standards. The two dugouts, small locker room, restroom and concessions window weren’t exactly recruiting tools either.
“We needed an upgrade,” said Cole Strong, vice president of operations at Lee. “The timing was right with the move to DII so we moved forward with the plan to construct this stadium.”
The university sought to make the most of its investment for the team, fans and others by creating usable space wherever possible. It also wanted to increase the pace of construction. To help accomplish both goals, precast concrete risers were used.
“The precast systems allowed us to structurally and functionally use the space underneath the stadium,” Strong said. “The locker room, coach’s office, laundry room, training room, restrooms and storage, plus an expanded concessions area, umpire locker room, and a locker room for Ocoee Middle School, with whom we share the facility, are all located under the stadium. “
In addition to creating functional space, the use of precast concrete risers, which were manufactured by Precast Concrete Systems, Inc., of Birmingham, Ala., allowed the school to match the Neo-Georgian architecture seen elsewhere on campus. According to Strong, the precast risers provided the school with a more mature look than a metal bleacher structure.
While the school’s baseball program is the obvious beneficiary, it doesn’t stop there. The stadium has an all-new, expanded press box with specific areas for public address, home radio and video, as well as a visitors’ radio area. Fans are appreciating the 400 chairback seats, a vast improvement versus the old metal bleachers, as well as a lawn area with picnic tables down the third base line. The improved atmosphere has led to an increase in attendance, and families now bring their kids and spread out on blankets in the lawn area. Even opposing coaches have been effusive in their compliments and hope to inspire their own schools to make a similar investment.
“To say our student-athletes and coaches love the facility is an understatement,” Strong said. “They dreamed big in the planning phase of the project but have been amazed with the final product. The new facility has helped with recruiting, which was another one of the reasons for building the stadium.
“Our goal was to build one of the top stadiums in the region at the NCAA DII level, and we think we have accomplished that.”
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