Glass: “We needed to make this happen”

The facilities committee of the Indiana University Board of Trustees approved a plan Thursday for a $19.8 million baseball/softball complex to be built just north of Assembly Hall, clearing one of several hurdles on the road to construction for the 2013 season.

The project still has to be approved by the full board today. Next, it has to be approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the State Budget Committee and the Indiana Finance Authority. That appears likely, however, considering that the complex is expected to be built entirely with funds from the IU athletic department.

If it is built, that would finally fulfill the promises of a new stadium made to by former athletic director Rick Greenspan to IU baseball coach Tracy Smith when he was hired in 2005 and to softball coach Michelle Gardner when she was hired in 2008.

“We needed to make this happen for a couple of reasons,” Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said. “No. 1, it’s something that we promised to do. We recruited a baseball coach and a softball coach and a lot of student athletes based on commitments to a baseball/softball complex. Those weren’t promises that I made, but we needed to deliver on that commitment. That’s No. 1, and No. 2, it’s the right thing to do even independent of that. We should be good in baseball and softball. We’re the southern-most school in the Big Ten.”

The plans for the complex have changed significantly in recent months. It will now be built on the site near the 45/46 bypass where it was originally approved by the Board of Trustees in 2006 as part of a $55 million facilities project along with the Memorial Stadium North End Zone renovation and Cook Hall. Those two buildings took up all of the approved funds, which left IU needing to find separate funding for the baseball/softball complex.
Shortly after taking office in 2009, Glass requested an estimate on the complex from the original designers and learned that it would cost $25 million to build on that site. The project was refocused and athletics expected to build on the site of the current baseball/softball complex at Sembower Field. As of late May, the department was still committed to that and the project was supposed to cost $10 to $13 million.

President Michael McRobbie and the administration still preferred the original site, however, because it would keep with IU’s master plan for campus renovation and provide an athletic jewel at the north end of campus drawing fan into the “athletics district.” So Glass and vice president of facilities Tom Morrison worked with Smith and Gardner to find ways of cutting costs from the initial design. Most significantly, Smith and Gardner agreed to keep their offices at Assembly Hall instead of getting new ones at the complex. That helped drive the cost under $20 million.

“You wouldn’t think it would be such a big driver,” Glass said. “But the offices would’ve required a second story, so that would’ve cost a lot more money because you’re building a stronger foundation for that and you’d also have to make elevators.”

In addition, the orientation of the designed softball field was changed so that it requires less digging into limestone.

The funding from the project will mostly come from a debt-service bond of $17.2 million that will be paid over 20 years by the athletic department. The department has also received a $2 million naming gift from a donor that Glass declined to name, and $600,000 of the project will be paid for by funds that come from revenue from the Big Ten Network.

Glass said the department has been raising money in private donations for the project and hopes for those to eventually total $10 million. He said that the additional expense will not keep the athletic department from keeping its budget in the black in the next 10 years.

“We’ll remain in the black,” he said. “We couldn’t undertake the project if we didn’t.”

Indiana still owns the design of the initial project, so Glass said the new complex will look much like the initial renderings that were presented in 2006. There will be some tweaks, however, and IU will look for an Indiana-based design firm to help make those.

Still, most of the amenities in the initial design will be maintained, minus the coaches’ offices.

It’s gonna be awesome man,” Glass said. “There will be on-site training facilities, on-site laundry facilities, heated batting cages. There’s going to be lights. For baseball, there will be an artificial surface. That’s kind of a drag because I like going into a baseball park and smelling the grass, but it only makes sense to do that with our climate. There’s going to be a nice concession stand, rest rooms, a nice press box. The capacity I don’t remember, but it will make us eligible to host regional championships. It’s gonna be great, it will be aesthetically beautiful. I’m real excited about it.”

11 comments

  1. Wow, Dustin. All I can say is this article again proves you have done the most amazing job when it comes to reporting on this project. You have really gone the extra mile when it comes to this story and you deserve a huge reward from your bosses at the HT.

  2. Yah, nice work DD, I recognize your passion for IU BB and compliment you for the relationship you have built with Coach Smith. Establishing and upgrading facilities at Bloomington whether sports related or not is a magnet for helping attract the best people to experience a future at IU.

    Wonder what the future holds for the location Sembower now occupies?

  3. Thanks HC. For the time being intramural fields. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe the master plan calls for more residence halls eventually. I could be wrong there.

  4. Dustin, How come in your article you say state approval is “likely” when in Mike Leonard’s tweet today from the trustees meeting says “Projects incl. IUB baseball stadium approved. But will the state play ball?”.

    This makes me wonder if state approval is as certain as your article indicates or if Mike Leonard is just being over dramatic? How certain in reality is state approval?

    Again as I said in my first post, I want to again commend you for doing a great job reporting on this stadium and the baseball team as a whole.

  5. Great news. I played at Sembower field (named after an English prof if the story I heard was correct) in the mid 70s and loved the location near the dorms. Earlier the field was in the middle of campus where the little 500 is held. My only concern with moving it is whether more students will come since it is farther away from the center of campus. Overall Smith has improved the program and being close to the other facilities makes sense. Other programs are shutting down their baseball programs and I am proud that IU is committing resources to a non revenue sport and this should enhance the program significantly.

  6. Aaron,
    Fred thinks its likely. I can’t see why it wouldn’t be likely. The state doesn’t have to provide any money for this. Unless I’m missing something, I can’t see what the state would disapprove of. Of course, Mike knows about these things much better than I do. It’s not like I know a whole bunch of state legislators.

  7. Dustin,

    Am I understanding correctly that the new complex will be built on the current North Fee Intramural fields? If so, that’d be a tough loss for the students considering how busy and cramped Woodlawn can get.

  8. How about
    1. Sembower –> Parking lot
    2. Parking lot behind Assembly Hall –> NEW Assembly Hall
    3. Old AH –> New parking lot
    4. Sembower parking –> Fred Glass Hall (residence hall)?

    just dreamin…

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