6/07/2007 – Daily News Record
Written By Mike Barber Daily News Record HARRISONBURG – Eight architects are vying to design the new baseball and softball complex for James Madison University, the school’s vice president for finance, Charlie King, said Wednesday. "We’ve received proposals from architects," King said. "We’re in the process of reviewing those." King said most of the firms are from Virginia, all have experience with either college or minor league baseball stadiums and at least one has worked on a major league park. He declined to name the firms. King said he intends to invite "several" architects onto campus "in the next few weeks" before picking a firm for the project. Once a firm is selected, King said, it probably will take 10 months for the architect to design the complex. JMU would put the construction job out to bid next June, King said. The construction, he said, should last about 12 months, meaning the new baseball stadium would be ready for the 2009 season. When Gov. Tim Kaine signed the state budget, it included a line allowing JMU to spend $5 million of its own funds to build the complex. Because Madison is a state university, any capital improvement over $1 million must be approved by the state, JMU can begin spending that money on July 1 – the start of the new fiscal year. King hopes to hire an architect close to that date. King said in January that the new facility would keep the "Memorial Stadium" name, part of the university’s agreement with the city when it bought the old Harrisonburg High School property — 29 acres — for about $17 million in June 2006. The plan is for the stadium to be built on the site of the current Memorial Stadium, King said, but nothing is set in stone. "For example, we just found out last week, there is a major sewer line under the football field," King said. "There are things like that that could change the plans." After an architect is selected, King said, JMU will likely involve its coaches — baseball’s Spanky McFarland and softball’s Katie Flynn — and Harrisonburg Turks owner/manager Bob Wease in the planning. In January, McFarland said a seating capacity of at least 3,000 would allow JMU to host NCAA regionals, something it can’t do at 1,200-seat Long Field, its current home. The new stadium also would have lights, something Long Field lacks. Madison officials are considering visits to other schools – including Virginia, William & Mary and East Carolina — to check out their baseball fields. While JMU’s new stadium will be off campus, it will bring the baseball and softball programs closer to their ballparks. Currently, the coaches’ offices and locker rooms are in Godwin Hall, while the baseball field is on the northern edge of the old campus and the softball field is adjacent to the Convocation Center. King said baseball and softball offices and locker rooms will be in the old Harrisonburg High School, now called Memorial Hall. Other sports could possibly move their offices there as well, King said. "One of the reasons we’re doing this is to take advantage of the locker rooms and offices in the old high school," King said. Wease’s Turks will almost certainly be displaced next summer for their Valley League season. "We could play doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday at JMU and night games at Harrisonburg High School, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it," Wease said Wednesday. He said he hasn’t contacted anyone at Harrisonburg about playing games there next summer but doesn’t anticipate it being a problem.