Thanks to a 56-win campaign that saw the Tigers go to the Women’s College World Series and finish the season No. 3 in the final rankings, Auburn’s softball program has achieved a new level of popularity on The Plains.
With more and more fans showing commitment to Auburn softball, the next step in the growth of the program was obvious for Auburn’s athletic department: renovating and expanding Jane B. Moore Field.
“We had to do something because we put our tickets on sale and in a matter of two days, we had sold 300 seats more than what we had capacity for,” said Auburn softball coach Clint Myers.
The most notable improvements to the stadium are new bleachers that will increase the stadium’s capacity by nearly 900.
What makes the renovation of Jane B. Moore Field truly unique, however, is how involved the coaching staff, including Myers, have been throughout the process.
“We’re the ones who spend the most time here,” Myers said. “We’re here countless hours every single day. Nobody knows the stadium better than we do. We were involved in all the meetings. We sat in all the construction meetings. We sat in all the vendor meetings and discussed what we need.”
When Auburn hired the two-time national champion from Arizona State, he immediately made an impact. During his first two seasons, he was directly involved with numerous changes made to the stadium, including a new video board, which at the time was the largest in the SEC; improved lighting that Myers calls “the best in the SEC and probably some of the best in the country”; and graphics on the outfield wall.
After a record-breaking 2015 campaign and a rising demand for tickets, Myers and the Auburn athletic department worked together to plan out improvements for 2016 and beyond.
“It’s exciting that the fans have supported us so well by coming and making a need for these seats,” Myers said. “We’re the fourth-largest revenue producer in the athletic department, Auburn softball. Three years ago, they didn’t even charge for softball. It was free. You could just walk in. Now we charge, and we don’t charge much.”
It isn’t enough just to add more seats, however. Adding 900 seats to the stadium doesn’t matter if the fans aren’t happy, so Auburn made other improvements to the stadium.
“We’re going for the biggest bang for our buck, because with the addition of more people, roughly 900 more people, we had to do something about bathrooms and concessions,” Myers said. “So, we’ve taken the team shop area in the press box and made that into a second concession stand.”
According to Myers, there will be two or three food trucks stationed in the stadium at every game.
“Now, the bathroom situation, we’ve got really nice bathrooms,” Myers said. “We’ve got three trailers, which are really going to help eliminate congestion. We put one for convenience down the right field line, and we’ve got two behind the bleachers in left field. It’s going to help.”
For families looking for a fun day at the park, Jane B. Moore Field will have inflatable bounce castles and areas for playing wiffle ball.
“Kids can come and play, and parents aren’t going to worry," Myers said. "My kids growing up lived at the ball park.”
With Myers changing the culture of Auburn softball both on the field and in the stands, more changes will be coming in the future.
According to Myers, Auburn will pave the parking lot next to the softball stadium during the summer. Other improvements to parking will be made as well.
“We’ve got some additional areas now that are reserved for softball for additional parking,” Myers said. “We’ve got the old track. We’re trying to work on those little six-passenger golf carts that will be able to shuttle people back and forth.”
Myers believes all of the changes at Jane B. Moore Field show just how committed Auburn is to having an elite softball program.
“Auburn has spent a lot of money trying to make this experience better by bringing in 900 more people that will have a seat,” Myers said. “We put chair backs in the whole lower bowl. Every single chair now is a seat, it’s not a bench anymore. We’re one of the few stadiums that have that.”
Although the 2016 season is currently underway, Myers is still looking to the future and to which stadium upgrades should happen next.
“Our next goal is to really get into fundraising mode where we can put permanent bleachers in,” Myers said. “We’ve got a great idea to reconstruct the batting cage area so we can put stuff on top of there. We’ve got areas in the outfield where we could put bleachers. We’ll have more tailgates. We want it to be more of a football frenzy before games.
“The bottom line is trying to give the fan, be it student or nonstudent, the best possible experience that we can,” Myers said. "We’re trying hard to keep involved with every aspect.”
Source : theplainsman.com