JUCO reveals upgrade plans for Suplizio

Suplizio Field started out as a quaint little baseball field, called Lincoln Park, with a few bleachers.

It is now an award-winning field that could get some major upgrades in the future. At least that’s the next big goal of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series Committee.

Chairman Jamie Hamilton announced Wednesday at the first JUCO Committee meeting that a remodeling project at the stadium is still in the plans.

The project involves replacing the stands on the first-base side, the football stands and the press box and adding a hospitality room, as well as changing how fans enter the two stadiums.

Preparation for the 2009 tournament is on schedule.

Howard (Texas) College remains atop the NJCAA national poll with its undefeated record (36-0) intact. Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College (32-4) is second, Young Harris (Ga.) College (32-6) is third, Yavapai (Ariz.) College (37-7) is fourth and Central Arizona College (35-7) is fifth.

Miami-Dade (Fla.) College, Wallace State (Ala.) Community College-Hanceville, San Jacinto (Texas) College, Johnson County (Kan.) Community College and Walters State (Tenn.) Community College round out the top 10.

Teams and fans won’t see changes for a few years if the project comes to fruition.

The existing stands for Suplizio Field and Stocker Stadium would be torn down and new bleachers would be installed on the football side. The walkway in front of the current stands would go away, with the bleachers extending to the track.

On the baseball side, seats would extend to the first-base dugout, with that walkway eliminated.

A portal between the football and baseball stands would serve as the new entry way to both stadiums. That area would include concessions and restrooms.

Above the first-base stands is an expanded, covered handicap seating area, and above that is a two-story hospitality/pressbox area.

The hospitality room could seat 250 people in an enclosed restaurant-style setting. It could host booster clubs, service club events or meetings, or other special events during games.

The pressbox would be on the level above the hospitality room.

“We’re in the beginning stages of funding and planning,” JUCO Vice Chairman Bruce Hill said. “The actual construction, we’re told, can be done in an 11-month window, but we’d have all these issues about money in the budget for a temporary press box, scoreboard operator and PA system to go somewhere else while all this is happening. It’s going to be a few years out, planning and preparing.

“We wanted to make sure this committee was aware of it because they’re kind of the seed money to make it happen.

“No one is committed to it yet, but the college likes it. A representative of the county was supportive, but I’m not taking that as a commitment.”

The JUCO Committee is in discussion with the Parks Improvement Advisory Board, Mesa State College, School District 51 and Mesa County to plan funding for the improvement to the facility. It is projected to cost between $13 million and $18 million.

The seating capacity for Suplizio Field on the first base section would increase from 824 to 898, with 48 American Disabilities Act-approved seats.

The seating capacity for Stocker Stadium’s east stands would increase from 1,783 to 1,902, with 38 ADA seats.

Suplizio Field currently seats 11,000, according to the city of Grand Junction.

“Even in these economic times, planning is the key,” Hill said. “Even if we can’t do it for a couple years, you still need to program it into the capital budget. When you bring entities together and start to move forward, it appeals to other funding partners, whether it’s El Pomar, Coors, that’s what they are looking for.”

The upgrade would enhance a facility that was recently runner-up for the Sports Turf Managers Association 2008 Baseball Field of the Year in the “schools and parks” category. JW Sadler Field in Westerville, Ohio, took first place.

Stocker Stadium won the football award in 1999.

“My first impression of the facilities is you can see that it is a signature piece of the community,” said Parks & Recreation Director Rob Schoeber, who’s been on the job six months. “The community revolves around everything that goes on down there. I know the kids dream about playing there. They think about that when they are playing Little League.

The ambiance when you go to watch a game, you’re so close. The sound is phenomenal.”

An average of 120 games are played at Suplizio Field by the first of August.

Hamilton also announced Wednesday that the JUCO Committee will use the $7,500 grant it received from the El Pomar Foundation to help the Challenger Program, a baseball program for physically and mentally handicapped children.

Area high school baseball teams, Mesa State’s baseball and softball teams and JUCO teams volunteer as buddies for the challenger players during the season.

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