Part One in a Series on the Construction and Renovation of Reese Smith Field

December 25, 2005 · MT Media Relations
Things are changing at Reese Smith Field, all for the better. And we're not talking about head coach Steve Peterson's team.

If you've been to Middle Tennessee's ballpark in the last year, several subtle changes have been apparent. A new scoreboard and message center were added before the 2005 season, as well as new turf around the dugouts and the addition of FieldTurf circling the home plate area.

More changes are coming for this season, which begins 55 days from today with a doubleheader against IP-Fort Wayne at Reese Smith Field. Many of the new additions will be much more noticeable, with some a little less visible to the naked eye.

"We really made some improvements over the last year for the players - new lights, a new outfield wall and a new infield surface," Peterson said. "

The installation of the new lighting system began in mid-August and was finished in late September. It included new poles and lights, as well as moving all of the switches to one central location.

The light poles were also installed with a new stadium in mind, but the biggest difference is in the amps, which increased the candlepower to a AAA system, meeting NCAA specifications as well as television specs, a much-needed upgrade for the Middle Tennessee program and Reese Smith Field in particular.

"The lights we had served a purpose, but they really got to be more of an antique," Peterson said. "We couldn't service television and they really weren't good enough.

"The improved lighting sets a tone for stadium expansion because we were able to move the poles out of the bleachers providing for expansion. Campus allowed us to move one of the poles into a parking lot."

Once fall practice ended, the other two major improvements began in preparation for the upcoming season.

A compilation of David Hilton at Southeastern Turf, Lou Warner (dirt) and Bill Marbett at Southern Athletic Fields (materials) graded and sodded the infield, leveling the surface and ridding the grass of hard-to-repair dead spots in front of home plate and the pitcher's mound. The new sod has been in place for about a month and has taken very nicely, even with the harsh temperatures the region has encountered in the past weeks.

"This is something never done in the infield. James Luter (MTSU Maintenance) and I talked and James really was the one to say instead of peacemealing it, let's replace the whole infield and get it done the way you want it."

The most visible improvement when fans walk into the stadium will no doubt be the outfield wall, another much-needed and long-overdue improvement for the facility. The wall has taken the longest to complete for several reasons, including the increased demand for steel after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as the harsh and frequent inclement weather over the past six weeks.

Crews have finished welding clips to the steel beams and should start adding wall panels in the next two weeks, readying it for the season opener. The unit includes an eight-foot wall from left-to-rightfield, including a 24-foot high section for a batter's eye in dead centerfield.

"The wall has been there since the early 80s. It really set the stage for fundraising for baseball when Coach [John] Stanford and Mr. Reese Smith started selling outfield signs to fundraise. That was the initial start of fundraising to improve the ballpark. All of a sudden baseball became a revenue sport and everything changed once it became a fundraising sport.

"But the wall needed replacing because the wood was deteriorating. Now we have built a professional wall that will last lifetimes."

Construction photos from several different parts of this construction, Phase I of the Reese Smith Field renovation, may be found in the archives on the baseball page at GoBlueRaiders.com.

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