Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark is getting another facelift, the park’s fifth since 1999.
No longer will the KU baseball program have to worry about grass stains on the uniforms. No longer will the Jayhawks play on natural grass.
This spring, KU will play on a new synthetic playing surface — Astroturf Gameday 3D — that currently is being installed at Hoglund Ballpark.
“This is the final piece of the puzzle for us to continue to improve Hoglund Ballpark so that we can be a top-25 program,” KU coach Ritch Price said.
During the eight years Price has been in Lawrence, several professional ballplayers have come through his program.
Many of those players have credited Price for helping them get to where they are today, but the recent actions of a handful of them goes farther than a few kind words.
“This is all paid for by donors and boosters and former players — all fund-raised dollars,” Price said of the $1.2 million project that is expected to be completed in early September. “No University of Kansas money is being used at all in the project, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate their support.”
One of the most critical donors for this latest project already has done more than his share for the venue. Forrest E. Hoglund, a Lawrence native and former KU baseball player, pledged a good chunk of the money to upgrade the playing surface at the stadium named in his honor. Such a gesture is not uncommon for Hoglund and his wife, Sally, who have provided funding for several other KU baseball projects in the past.
The reason? Simple.
“The University of Kansas is a great institution that has achieved its status through a combination of state support and private philanthropic funding,” Hoglund said. “Ever since we were students, Sally and I both hoped to participate in that tradition, and one of my interests was baseball. My vision is for Kansas to have a first-class baseball program. One of the big needs we had was to create an outstanding ballpark to play in, one that would make the players, recruits, coaches, fans and students proud.”
The new turf is the latest in a series of upgrades at Hoglund Ballpark. In 1999, a new press box was installed, and the area around the field was enhanced with black iron gates and fences, expanded dugouts and rest rooms and a sharp-looking brick plaza entrance. The price tag for that project was $1.8 million, most of which was covered by a gift from Hoglund.
In 2005, construction of an indoor hitting facility down the right-field line — the Hoglund Indoor Training Center — was completed, and a year later the university installed a 16-foot-by-28-foot, state-of-the-art video board above the scoreboard in right field.
Three years later, in 2009, Hoglund Ballpark welcomed the McCarthy Family Clubhouse to the park, a spacious home for the Jayhawks situated behind the dugout on the first-base side that includes player and coaches locker rooms, a players lounge, academic rooms and cardio and training rooms.
The week after the 2010 season concluded, construction crews were on the field tearing up the old surface and preparing the site for the new stuff. Doing so included a lot more than just ripping up some grass and laying turf down.
“There was about a four-foot hole where the infield used to be,” Price said. “That’s how far down the rock and drainage system is being installed.”
While the previous upgrades made the Kansas baseball experience more enjoyable for coaches, players, fans and recruits, the current project figures to help directly with the product on the field. For starters, the Jayhawks will be able to spend more time on the field in the early days of the season.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for the last three years, trying to raise the funds to install the new synthetic turf that’s being put on a lot of the fields across America that are cold-weather programs,” Price said. “It’s certainly an exciting time for our program.
“I kept track this last spring, and there were 17 days before April 1 where, if we could’ve gotten on the field, it was nice enough outside to have practiced. But unfortunately the ground was too hard, the ground was wet or there was still snow on the ground, and we were unable to practice.”
After taking a top 25-ranking and lofty Big 12 expectations into the 2010 season, KU finished 31-27-1, finished seventh in the conference and missed the NCAA Tournament.