After years of utilizing municipal fields and coordinating schedules for shared facilities, McPherson College’s baseball and softball programs are one step closer to having fields to call their own.
Work began Tuesday, July 18, on the new complex — to be known as Bulldog Park — located adjacent to the City of McPherson’s Bremyer Dog Park on South Centennial Street. The Bulldog Park complex will feature two fields - one baseball, one softball - built to current collegiate field specifications. A defining characteristic of the new fields is that both will feature AstroTurf on the infield and throughout foul territory.
The artificial surface will be a first for softball in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and one of a handful overall in the state of Kansas. The turf will also provide the McPherson College baseball and softball programs with greater flexibility when it comes to scheduling games and practices around the always tricky weather in the region.
“Bulldog Park gives both programs a home they can call their own,” McPherson College Director of Athletics Andrew Ehling said. “Since each program’s inception, they have leased or rented facilities and had to share the facility with another group in McPherson. This opportunity will also allow for better scheduling around our student’s academic lives”
After playing its inaugural 2011 season at the Grant Sports Complex on the north edge of McPherson, the Bulldog baseball team has played the last six seasons at Light Capital Diamond. The McPherson College softball team has played at Wall Park since the program began in 2000.
“This new facility will give our student-athletes a sense of ownership and enhance their experience at McPherson College,” Ehling said. “Both programs are on the rise with full roster squads and proven success in the classroom and on the field.”
In addition to Bulldog home games and practices, the artificial turf will make Bulldog Park an attractive destination for local youth camps and clinics, summer baseball and softball tournaments, and, possibly, summer collegiate organizations.
The initial phase of the project will focus on basic infrastructure for both diamonds, including fields, fences, batting cages, dugouts and scoreboards. Additionally, water and electrical utilities will be extended to the site. This phase is expected to be completed in time for the McPherson’s home baseball opener against Evangel University on Friday, Feb. 9, and the Bulldog softball team home opener Saturday, Feb. 24, against Dordt College.
Once the fields are completed, the focus will shift to enhancing the infrastructure and amenities of the entire complex with the addition of lights, permanent seating, press boxes, restrooms and concession areas for both fields. There is also planned space for baseball and softball clubhouses as well as an indoor training facility in future phases. Completion of future phases will be determined by successful fundraising.
The college initiated discussions with the City in the summer of 2015 to lease the parcel and partnered with Prairie Landworks of McPherson in the spring of 2016 to establish a master plan to guide the project. On Dec. 1, 2016, the college obtained an official lease from the city for the land parcel.
“We are grateful to the city of McPherson,” said McPherson College President Michael Schneider. “Our student-athletes appreciate this opportunity to build their own home fields.”
The project is being funded by McPherson College and its supporters as well as additional revenue from youth camps and tournaments.
What the coaches are saying about the new facility:
• Ashley (Spencer) Hickman, head softball coach •
“The excitement of having our own field is hard to contain from my staff and players. We want to thank the administration, board of trustees, and our boosters for everything they have done in order to get our field started.
“With being one of the few schools in Kansas with turf, we are going to be able to accomplish more with our program. We have been growing and developing over the past few years, but the advantage of having a surface that we can play on in all kinds of weather is going to bring more to our program. We will be able to practice outside after it rains and earlier in our season, along with hosting more camps and games.
“Being apart of a community that loves sports helps us with this project. We hope that the community continues to back us as we develop a complex that will be worth it for a long time.”
• Bryan Moses, head baseball coach •
“I’m really proud to be affiliated with an institution that is committed to providing a better experience for their student-athletes.
“We’re excited to be able to play on what we believe is going to be a state-of-the-art facility in the NAIA. To call Bulldog Park home is a blessing that nobody within the program will take for granted.
“From a recruiting aspect, this lets prospective student-athletes get excited about both the direction of the team and their home facility -- the possibilities are endless. As the facility will be centrally-located and resistant to weather, I think it will get to a point we can host tournaments.
“The new facility will also allow us to generate revenue both during the season and in the offseason. It’s going to be an appealing place. The biggest aspect is that it’s ours - for practice, games, camps and clinics.”