As construction for the new athletic complex continues, Francis Marion University student-athletes, coaches and fans are still excited about and anticipating its completion.
Construction of the Gerald R. Griffin Athletic Complex began last January and was originally scheduled to be completed at the beginning of 2012.
Director of Athletics Murray Hartzler said that there is still some unfinished business to handle before the complex can be used by FMU student-athletes.
“There’s not one piece of the complex that’s completely finished,” Hartzler said. “There are press box parts, fixtures, brickwork and concrete work that must be completed.”
Hartzler said that as important as it is for the state-of-the-art facility to be played on, it’s more important that it be done in the proper manner.
“We could push the contractor if we wanted, but we want things to be done right,” Hartzler said.
Hartzler said that he was hoping that the complex, which features Cormell Field at Sparrow Stadium, where the highly-ranked FMU baseball team will play, would be completed by opening day of the baseball season. Right now, the goal and the expectation is that the stadium be ready for play at the beginning of March.
Meanwhile, Patriots student-athletes are enthusiastic and excited about the new complex being opened and ready for play.
Junior right-handed pitcher and last season’s PBC Pitcher of the Year Don Sandifer said that his team is very excited about the new stadium and is eager to play in their new home.
“Having the new field makes it feel like we’re in a better college facility other than the high school-like facility we have now,” Sandifer said.
Sandifer also said that the new stadium should benefit his team because of some poor conditions on the current Cormell Field.
“The ball takes bad hops on third and first base,” Sandifer said. “The field doesn’t drain well.”
The right-hander said that while players are somewhat disappointed that the new field isn’t ready, it won’t have any effect on them during the season.
“We talk about the stadium,” Sandifer said. “We’re ready to play on it, but we’ve still got to play our game.”
One of the highlights of Cormell Field at Sparrow Stadium will take place on Wednesday, April 11, when FMU hosts the Division I baseball champion South Carolina Gamecocks. Hartzler said that there should be no worries about the facilities by that time.
“We definitely don’t want to cancel that game,” Hartzler said. “The USC game should not be a problem.”
Other features of the facility include a lake to support research and natural sciences at the university. There will also be walking trails surrounding the lake and going through the woods.
Also, Hartzler will be recognized with the soccer field being named in his honor. Hartzler is a former head soccer coach for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams. Hartzler Field will seat about 400 and have an enclosed press box.
The new complex will include a plaza named after athletic trainer Marion “Spyder” Webb. Webb graduated from FMU in 1978 and has been taping ankles and loosening tight muscles for FMU student-athletes for 35 years. Webb Plaza will be near the center of the complex.
Being honored with the Hawkins Press Box will be Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations and Marketing Michael Hawkins. After Hawkins graduated from FMU in 1985, he served as sports information director and news writer within the university’s Office of Communication Services for 21 years until he accepted his current role in the Athletics Department in 2006.
Hartzler said that with the new complex, FMU has hopes to host some regional tournament games in the Division II College World Series in the future.