Baker Athletics to add new fields and facilities


Josephine Moore

Baker University’s baseball field, Sauder Field, is currently under renovation. There are plans to continue the renovations to the football, softball, and soccer fields to create the Champions Sports Facility.

Baker University is currently making several renovations and additions to benefit Baker athletes, coaches, students, families and alumni.

Associate Vice President of Capital Planning, Facilities and Emergency Management Scott George describes the first phase of the Baker Builds Champions capital project. Phase 1 is expected to be completed by February 2022 aside from the track resurfacing, which won’t take place until late May 2022 to coordinate with athletic schedules and commencement.

A press box with be added to both the baseball and softball fields as part of the renovations. (Courtesy of Scott George)

“At the Charlie Richard Sports Complex, the baseball and softball fields are being rebuilt with turf, new dugouts and spectator spaces. “In addition, a new soccer field with turf, lights, and spectator spaces is being constructed south of the football stadium. This field may also be used for lacrosse in the future.”

In addition, George says Liston Stadium’s track will be resurfaced, and a new press box for baseball and softball will be constructed along with a new indoor training facility, restrooms and concession spaces.

“The fields will all be artificial turf and built to complement the overall feel of the sports complex.  The soccer turf will be one of only a few FIFA-certified fields in the Midwest, and the baseball and softball artificial turf will mimic the playing characteristics of pro team fields providing consistent and safe play. We are creating spaces that will be more fan-friendly for games, safer fields and overall enhancing the complex,” George explained.

The new baseball field will include artificial turf that will mimic the playing characteristics of pro team fields. (Courtesy of Scott George)

Sophomore Mary Grace Hess is a member of the softball team. She thinks that the new turf softball field will allow the team to spend less time on field maintenance and more time practicing.

Currently, teams share space in Mabee Gym and Liston Stadium. The new indoor facility will have artificial turf and netting for batting cages and pitching. Baseball and softball having their own facility will free up Mabee Gym, helping wrestling, cheer and dance team with scheduling.

Additions for the softball team will include batting cages and an independent practice area. (Courtesy of Scott George)

“The batting cages will be really nice. Instead of having to share facilities with the dance team and wrestling team, it’s just going to be us and baseball. That’s going to make scheduling and being able to get in time hitting easier and efficient,” Hess said.

The new soccer field will allow football and soccer to practice at the same time throughout the entire season and stop the need to practice late into the evening.

A new soccer field will be built as part of the Phase 1 renovations. (Courtesy of Scott George)

Athletic Director Nate Houser, who is also the Head Men’s Soccer Coach, is thrilled about these renovations and believes it has been a long time coming.

“I’m at every other campus in our conference. I see the facilities. I think there’s a perception that Baker athletics exists in a vacuum. It is more than appropriate that we are addressing our facilities right now when you consider what potential students are seeing at other places,” Houser said.

Despite facilities that have not been up to par with other universities, Houser believes Baker athletics has done a great job recruiting high-quality student-athletes.

“If you look at 153 scholar-athletes, we’re bringing in more really talented student-athletes than just about anybody else in our conference and we’re doing it with dated facilities,” Houser said.

Houser also says the sports field renovations will benefit Baker as a long-term investment.

“Financially, it’s going to help us because we’re going to have the opportunity to host more events. Less travel means more time in class and if our students are in class more you assume that’s going to equal more success,” Houser said.

George says there are future phases for improvements that envision a centerpiece building at the athletic complex to house new locker rooms, bathrooms and spectator spaces along with an addition to the north side of Collins gym to house wrestling. There would also be the addition of an auxiliary gym for all students. He says these phases will be explored as private fundraising efforts continue, but are not currently scheduled at this time.

Houser says the third phase for the outdoor facility would include football locker rooms and locker room space for softball, baseball and men and women’s soccer teams.

The athletic department was able to make these renovations and additions due to the Forever Orange campaign. The campaign was launched in May 2016 and will end in 2022. It relies on the support of generous alumni and friends of Baker. Since its inception, Baker University has raised $34.1 million so far. A $1 million grant from the Sunderland Foundation will support phase one of the capital project, and the three-phase Baker Builds Champions capital project is estimated at over $17 million.

“We are very excited about the renovations. Anything we do on campus that improves things for students is always exciting and these improvements address existing needs and improve safety for student-athletes,” George said. “Our team is looking forward to getting things completed and can’t wait to see the improvements being made this spring season.”

Houser believes the new athletic facilities and fields will benefit not only Baker athletics but the entire Baker community.

“Talking to Dr. Murray about the vision four years ago, she said, ‘This has to touch everyone and I think we’ve made that very clear that it will touch the whole student experience,” Houser said. “The fan experience that we’re going to create is going to really affect the whole student population at Baker and our alumni.”