Homecoming weekend was also a special one for the Kent State University baseball and softball programs.
Groundbreaking for a new baseball and softball hitting facility at Schoonover Stadium took place Saturday morning, as lead donor Dave Edmonds joined Kent State University President Dr. Lester Lefton and Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen to greet a crowd of supporters, donors, coaches, staff and student-athletes that gathered for the event.
"To see all the development and to see all the activity around the program today with this facility that's coming for both the men and women, it's really exciting to watch," said Edmonds, a 1980 KSU grad who played baseball for the Golden Flashes. "I really believe it's going to make a difference in student-athletes' lives today and in future generations."
Flashes softball coach Karen Linder stressed how the facility will allow her players a place to practice.
"We're excited about this hitting facility because it gives us a place we can call our home," said Linder. "It really is going to have a huge impact on the success of our program."
The project is made possible by a lead gift of $500,00 by Edmonds and a donation of $100,000 by fellow KSU baseball alum Tom Cole (1972).
First-year KSU baseball coach Jeff Duncan remarked on the strong relationships that make projects like the hitting facility possible.
"When you have a program that has so much tradition like our Kent State baseball program, our alumni are so proud and they always want to give back," said Duncan. "The support here between the administration, our alumni and community is unbelievable."
The facility upgrade is part of the 'Building Champions' initiative, the biggest fundraising project in the history of the Kent State Athletic Department.
The initiative will generate money from private donors to fund a $25 million dollar investment in athletic scholarships and a $35 million dollar investment in various enhancement projects.
The hitting facility is part of continuing upgrades to the Kent State baseball facilities at Schoonover Stadium.
In 2005, a field turf surface was installed, along with an underground drainage system, new dugouts, bullpens, backstop and outfield fencing. For the 2007 season, a home locker room, players' lounge, restrooms and concession stand were added. The updated scoreboard in right field was installed in 2008.
Last season, Kent State baseball played night games after the addition of lights at Schoonover Stadium. The hitting facility and a new parking area for the 2014 season are made possible by both public and private funding.