The Binghamton baseball team’s field sits at the northwestern corner of campus, past the Science Complex and the West Gym, adjacent to the Events Center. Just as leaves begin to fall around campus, the grass at the baseball field has disappeared, too. But unlike the leaves on the trees that surround it, Varsity Field’s grass is gone forever.
Thanks to a $2.2 million gift from an anonymous donor, various upgrades will be made to the field, including the installation of a FieldTurf synthetic surface and the addition of broadcast-quality flood lights.
The Binghamton University athletics department announced the donation — the largest in program history — on Tuesday.
Construction began Monday, prior to the announcement. The new field is scheduled to be completed by the Binghamton baseball team’s first home game, which is scheduled for April 8 against UMBC.
“This gift will provide our baseball student-athletes with a state-of-the-art, weather resistant and durable surface to play on,” said BU Director of Athletics Patrick Elliott.
The new field will be entirely made of turf, including the infield and foul territory areas. The improvements will allow Binghamton the freedom to practice outside and schedule home games earlier in the season. In 2015, poor field conditions forced the Bearcats to move their home opener to Ithaca. The addition of lights will allow BU to host America East (AE) conference tournaments in the future.
“It’s going to enhance not only what the current student athletes are doing, but the future of this program, and the talent of student athletes we can go and recruit,” said BU head coach Tim Sinicki.
The athletics department says that the donor was a BU alum who is passionate about baseball.
“Our donor loves baseball and we’re thankful he thinks enough of the program here to support it at this level,” Elliott said. “His gift will provide an exceptional facility for our baseball team.”
BU athletics’ previous donation record was set last year by Dr. Bai Lee, a local gynecologist, when he donated $1 million. The Events Center court now bears his name. That donation initially went toward the renovation of the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms. Further improvements were made to the Student-Athlete Success Center, the strength and conditioning program and the sports medicine team.
After the most recent donation was announced, Sinicki expressed his disbelief and gratitude.
“I was really surprised, honestly, that there was someone out there who felt so strongly about our baseball program that they’d be willing to commit that type of money toward the improvement of our facility,” Sinicki said. “There are no words to accurately describe how I feel in terms of what it means to this program.”
According to Elliott, the planning process initially started in April. The project was chosen from a spreadsheet of possible improvements that Elliott maintains and utilizes in discussions with potential donors.
“Fundraising is a process and sometimes when you’re focused on a particular project, there’s a lot of leg work to do to look at design and to look at what an overall project would cost,” Elliott said.
While he was kept updated throughout the planning process, Sinicki believes that the project was only finalized recently.
“It wasn’t until maybe a week and a half ago that we knew it was actually going to happen,” Sinicki said. “I wasn’t brought into some of the conversations that the administration has to have.”
The field was last renovated in 2013 when a new natural grass surface was installed, along with new dugouts and a press box.
Last season, the Bearcats won both the AE regular season and tournament titles before falling in the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament. The Bearcats have won the AE Tournament in three of the last four years.
“I’m really just overwhelmed by the donor’s generosity and interest in the team,” Sinicki said.