A look at the future of the Women's College World Series and ASA Hall of Fame Stadium

Oklahoma City has upgraded ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, built in 1987, but the final four phases are what will secure the long-term deal OKC officials have craved.
by Michael Baldwin Modified: June 1, 2014 at 7:50 pm •  Published: June 1, 2014
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In addition to raising additional funds, every-year construction must cease at ASA Hall of Fame for the WCWS and other softball events. This year, construction will be stopped from May 15 to Aug. 1 to accommodate a 64-team men’s tournament in July.

Later this decade, the final product in 2019 or 2020 will include 4,200 upper-deck seats, additional concession stands, a new concourse and ticket area, plus a new press box that will replace next year’s expanded version.

“Being in the new dugouts made me excited it will be here until 2035,” said Florida coach Tim Walton, whose Gators will play for this season’s national title. “What they’ve done already are baby steps, but when you hear about what’s yet to come, this place is going to be awesome.”

There’s a misconception a permanent outfield wall will be constructed, but portable outfield bleachers will remain a fixture for years to come.

The big changes will be the additional seats in an upper deck and expanded media areas, which ESPN feels is essential for its expanding coverage.

“Oklahoma City is the mecca of softball,” said Mark Lewis, NCAA executive vice president for championships and alliances. “Having permanency to this site makes it that much better because this is quite a production ... We’re very grateful the city values the championship.”

Phase II

2014 – New dugouts with restrooms, team meeting rooms and athletic training area located via a tunnel underneath the bleachers.

Phase II b

2015 – Hall of Fame’s current press box will be renovated and expanded because the hospitality suite will be relocated down the right-field line.

Phases III & IV

2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 – A 4,200-seat upper deck will expand capacity to more than 13,000. Additional projects include a second expanded press box, new concourse, plus upgraded concession stands and ticket areas.

Fundraising

Oklahoma City officials estimate it will cost between $20-23 million for renovations that will assure ASA Hall of Fame Stadium will host the Women’s College World Series through 2035.

Half of the funds already have been raised for projects that began with dugout renovations this season.

Assisted by private donations and OG&E paying several hundred thousand dollars for naming rights of ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City officials are halfway to $23 million. A bond election in December 2017 also will help finance the four-phase project.

“The financial resources Oklahoma City is pouring into the stadium shows the commitment the city has to grow with the sport,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “Once it’s completed it will be the finest softball facility in the country, which will make it even more special for young kids.”

Oklahoma City voters already have stepped up twice to help Hall of Fame Stadium transform from a 2,000 permanent-seat venue in 1999 to the current layout of 8,400 permanent seats, including outfield bleachers. Officials can sell 9,300 tickets per session, including standing-room-only tickets.

The first bond issue helped pay for two practice fields and bleachers down the right-field and left-field lines.

Half of the $4 million raised from the 2007 bond issue went toward the ASA Field House beyond the left-field bleachers, a facility that features four team-meeting rooms.

It will be another four to five years before the final phase is completed.

In addition to waiting for the 2017 bond issue, another factor is renovation every year has to be shut when the WCWS is held. This year, ASA Hall of Fame Stadium will be shut down from May 15 to Aug. 1 to also accommodate a 64-team men’s tournament in July.

“That’s the main reason we have to go in phases,” said All Sports Association executive director Tim Brassfield. “We just have to stay on the timeline we have in place.”

The future

Once ASA Hall of Fame Stadium is transformed later this decade into a triple-deck facility capable of holding 13,000 fans, Oklahoma City officially will become the host of the Women’s College World Series through 2035.

Young boys will dream of playing in the baseball World Series in Omaha, Neb. Young girls will dream about playing for a national title in Oklahoma City.

“There are girls that haven’t been born yet that will play in this facility,” said Oklahoma City All Sports Association executive director Tim Brassfield. “That’s pretty exciting we’re doing something like Omaha that will last that long by building a first-class facility for a first-class event.”

Instead of offering another two-year contract extension, the NCAA announced last week it’s committed to turn Oklahoma City into the “Omaha of softball.”

“When you talk to anybody on our staff, they can’t wait to go to Omaha and they can’t wait to go to Oklahoma City,” said Brent Colborne, ESPN’s director of programming for college sports. “Omaha has that hometown feel; the culture there is insane. It feels the same way in Oklahoma City.”

The NCAA moved the WCWS from Sunnyvale, Calif., to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in 1990. It has remained in OKC every year since except 1996, when it drew sparse crowds at the Olympic softball venue in Columbus, Ga.

When the long-term deal ends in 2035, Oklahoma City will have hosted 45 of the previous 46 Women’s College World Series’. After years of making steady improvements, a four-phase renovation project will assure ASA Hall of Fame Stadium is the permanent home for softball.

“I can’t say enough about the people of Oklahoma City, the city’s leadership, the University of Oklahoma and ASA to join the All Sports Association to make this happen,” Brassfield said. “It’s so rewarding to see how our city has played a key role in the growth of the sport to where it’s now the Omaha of softball.”


by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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