Pretty big news today as Florida announces it will build a $45 million baseball stadium that will seat 5,500 people on its campus. It should be ready for the 2020 season. For my money, Florida’s existing stadium is one of the worst in the conference.
The knock on Florida baseball is that it has not been committed to giving its coaches the resources as other SEC teams that don’t win as much (think Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, etc.). Between this and that big contract given to Kevin O’Sullivan last year, Florida is finally demonstrating a commitment to the sport.
I would add that Baum Stadium, while still a great facility, is suddenly becoming one of the more dated in the conference. Mississippi State is in the midst of that big expansion that will be finished in 2019 and Kentucky is building a new stadium. Texas A&M and Alabama overhauled their parks, Ole Miss has underwent a big renovation and South Carolina and LSU have built new parks since the last renovation to Baum.
Arkansas did build the indoor facility a few years back, but I’m talking about renovations that are fan-related.
That isn’t to say that Arkansas needs to be in a rush to expand Baum, but it’s interesting to note what others have done in the past 10 years. My guess is that Arkansas will add more suites sooner rather than later to the stadium. The waiting list there is more than the number of existing suites.
I was there several years ago about a week after the Hogs had played there the week before. I showed up for the game decked out as though for a Razorback game. Florida played a truly horrid Georgia team. Let’s just say that I was not impressed with the facilities.
What’s really interesting is that Florida’s stadium will be small. What they’ve learned about Florida baseball is that it’s mostly hot and humid (with gulf showers coming and going) and people don’t want to sit through something like that in the sun. They have an outstanding baseball program, but it’s not something that generates big crowds. By contrast, Arkansas can put 10,000 in its stadium when there is just a hint of a warm night in the spring and routinely sell 8,500 season tickets. They build some more suites and chair back seats, those will be sold, too.