Regents OK renovations to softball park

by Heather Fors

The Gophers women’s softball program scored some bonus points with the Board of Regents’ Facilities Committee on Thursday morning when its stadium renovation proposal slid into home plate.
If the full board rubber stamps Thursday’s decision in today’s Committee of the Whole meeting, portable potties and bleachers at the Bierman Softball Complex will make way for a permanent grandstand that will seat 1,070 spectators and meet Division I standards.
The state Legislature has already granted the women’s athletics department $1 million toward the construction, and an individual donor matched that contribution.
Construction on the complex is slated to begin in July and end in October.
“I think it’s just a well-needed step. We have wonderful athletes,” said Kristen Vatthauer, a student representative on the Board of Regents.
Some of the other improvements include a heating system for the cold days and an irrigation system to upgrade field drainage. Concession and novelty stands will also have a place among the press area, club room and team meeting and training rooms.
“This really is one of the last steps we have to take,” women’s athletics director Chris Voelz said in reference to the progress of women’s athletics at the University.
The facility will not be occupied during the winter because in order to maintain the quality of the field, the area could not easily be converted for other uses, such as outdoor hockey. The women’s athletics department and University operations are also looking into a permanent soccer field in St. Paul.
Some board members, including Regent David Metzen, questioned the practicality of having a space dedicated only to softball when the University is crunched for space. Metzen said he would like to see something constructed so 10 years from now it could be used in the winter if the University wanted to.