The tradition is alive and well at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City, but this time it has a new and improved look.
Members of the USA Softball Hall of Fame committee unveiled a fully renovated and revamped stadium on June 17 that featured an upper deck seating option, state-of-the-art Tahoma 31 turf, polished (and air conditioned) locker rooms, as well as storage and green rooms, for the athletes, and a fully covered concourse level providing shade for thousands of softball fans to enjoy.
For 29 years, the Women’s College World Series has brought thousands of softball fans from around the country to Oklahoma City, and though COVID-19 halted all softball from occurring this year, 2021 will be the 30th consecutive year for college athletes to bring some of the best fans in sports back to Oklahoma City.
“This is the best softball facility in the world,” CEO Craig Cress said. “I sit on the International Softball board, so trust me when I say that. This is the premiere facility in the United States and in the world for our athletes.”
The renovations didn’t stop with just more seating. $2 million was spent on the field alone with the Tahoma 31 turf being the most cushioned turf in the state protecting athletes as they dive for pop flies, capture hard-hit ground balls, and keep their legs and shins strong through the many hours played on the field.
A top-notch irrigation system was developed under the turf making it so the grass underneath can absorb up to 15 inches of rain per hour. Rain delays and/or suspension of games will never be an issue again.
Field and turf superintendent Chuck White explained how the dugouts had been completely altered to a 28-foot long layout making it possible for the entire team to stand at the fence of the dugout to watch the game and encourage their teammates.
In an Oklahoma summer, shade is huge necessity for athletes spending majority of their day outside, so along with the field renovations comes shaded field houses for the players to enjoy while they wait their turn to compete, as well as a chance for pitchers and catchers to warm up their arms and shoulder. These exist on the outside corners of the outfield.
Anyone remember the game delay between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma from 2019 because a light in the outfield went out? That will never be a problem again due to the new LED lighting installed in the stadium where all lights will also be instantaneous with different levels of brightness depending on the time of day/night.
Taking a step back into the stands, what once held approximately 5,000 fans on the lower deck, as well as 3,000 additional seating in the outfield, is now accompanied by 4,000 new seats in the upper deck giving softball fans a spectacular view of the game and a beautiful view of downtown Oklahoma City the other way.
This brings the total seating for the Hall of Fame Complex to 12,000.
“71 percent of our All Session passes are purchased from people who live outside of Oklahoma,” Director of Sports Business at Visit OKC Sue Hollenbeck said. “Next season will be our biggest crowd yet, and now we have the space and accommodations to suit everyone.”
This also includes improved concessions stands on both levels of seating, as well as 131 new restrooms for fans.
“The NCAA wanted to do better for the athletes with the locker rooms,” Chief Operating Officer John Miller said. “The complex went from 22 lockers to 60 in one room, as well as 120 hooks for bags and clothing to be kept elevated and off the floor.”
Training rooms and storage rooms were installed right as athletes and coaches walk through the dugout doors so teams can drop their bags to begin warmups and practice rather than lining them along the hallway as a hindrance for teams finishing a game.
Media members also benefit from the renovations provided with open and air-conditioned work rooms, conference rooms seating 70-75 people, TV and radio rooms, and recreation rooms for dining. The media will also appreciate personal bathrooms and hospitality rooms for snack and drinks throughout the game, as well as a clear view of the field sitting right behind home plate.
A $27.5 million budget was approved for the project, which has secured the economy-boosting Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City through 2035.
“If this wasn’t the Mecca of softball fields before, which it was, it absolutely is now,” Sue Hollenbeck said. “We’re so excited for every youth athlete who gets to come and wants to come to Oklahoma City and experience this.”
The revamped Hall of Fame Softball Complex will have its first participants in it June 28-July 1 for the USA Softball HFL July 4th Showdown.