Aug. 10, 2011
TUCSON - The Tucson Mayor and Council on Tuesday voted 6-0 in favor of a Letter of Intent proposed between the City of Tucson and The University of Arizona Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) for a long-term lease of Hi Corbett Field for the school's baseball program.
Based on Arizona Board of Regents policy, the Letter of Intent includes plans to use Hi Corbett Field for a minimum of 10 years, beginning with a five-year lease with an option to renew at the University's discretion for an additional five years. ICA expects to have an agreement with the City of Tucson to begin playing baseball at Hi Corbett Field for the 2012 season in February.
"We are committed to competing at a championship level and offering the best possible collegiate experience to our student-athletes," Director of Athletics Greg Byrne said. "This decision is based on that fact alone. Our goal is to improve our facilities and energize our fan base in a cost-effective manner to allow our baseball program to compete at the highest level."
"We are pleased that the arrangement between the university and the City of Tucson will put the Wildcat baseball program at Hi Corbett Field," UA President Eugene Sander said. "This cooperative solution for the future of baseball is indicative of the collaboration all of the institution's units face to continue the excellence toward which The University of Arizona strives."
"This agreement between the City and the UA will mean having a national championship-caliber baseball team playing at the premier baseball facility in the City," Mayor Bob Walkup said. "This is a real win-win for Tucson."
"We are looking forward to a successful long-term partnership with UA baseball that will maximize the use of this important community facility, will be financially beneficial to Tucson taxpayers, and will provide an economic boost to surrounding businesses," Deputy City Manager Richard Miranda said.
"I spoke personally with many great baseball alumni who have maintained strong connections to our program," Byrne said. "Some expressed concerns about this move for a variety of reasons, and we are very respectful of their strong emotional connections to the history of the program. I also spoke with many who saw this as a great opportunity to continue our championship tradition and further establish ourselves as one of the premier baseball programs in the nation."
The move to Hi Corbett Field will immediately improve Arizona's baseball facilities and bring them up to par with some of the finest in the nation. Several areas of the program will be positively impacted, including recruiting, player development and fan experience.
"I am going in to my 30th season as a college baseball head coach," Head Coach Andy Lopez said. "As schools around the country have improved facilities, I have seen how important the best facilities are to recruits. Look around the country and in our own league, places that don't have warm climates now have top facilities and draw great players from the warm-climate locations. If we upgrade our facilities, I know our climate, tradition and academic programs will be one of the best all-around packages to showcase for potential student-athletes."
From the recruiting and player development standpoints, the Arizona coaching staff will be able to showcase a facility that includes every necessary element of a program committed to winning championships. Hi Corbett Field will allow players to train in a professional facility that includes home and visiting clubhouses attached to dugouts, an annex field for practicing, and a large press box with suites.
Among the improvements over the Wildcats' current ballpark are larger, shaded batting cages with pitching mounds that will allow for year-round use by hitters and pitchers. Hi Corbett Field also includes a separate annex field for specialized practice that can help keep the field inside the main stadium at top playing condition when necessary.
From a fan perspective, Hi Corbett Field includes an abundance of amenities from ample parking, to concessions to covered seating. The facility has 8,665 seats, including 4,248 chair-back seats, 4,312 bench-back seats and 105 handicapped-accessible spaces. An open concourse space behind the grandstands of the stadium provides shaded patio areas, concessions areas and multiple spacious restrooms.
ICA plans to immediately begin upgrades to Hi Corbett Field to further enhance the experience for players and fans. Among the upgrades will be renovations to the clubhouses and locker rooms on site, as well as a new score/video board and new fencing to adjust the outfield dimensions. Additional plans include creating a family zone area and branding the facility as the home of the Wildcats while blending the history of Hi Corbett Field with Arizona's proud traditions and legacies.
Arizona's long and storied baseball tradition includes a history of playing games at Hi Corbett Field. During the 1960-70s, the Wildcats hosted as many as a dozen or more night games each year at Hi Corbett Field. Through the 1974 season, Arizona enjoyed a home field advantage at the park that produced a 37-15 (.712) overall record.
Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium has been the Wildcats' primary home facility since 1967, where Arizona boasts an all-time record of 1,114-486-4 (.695). From 1986-2003, the facility was known as Frank Sancet Field. Prior to 1986, the facility was known as Wildcat Field.
What notable UA baseball alumni are saying ...
"This is an opportunity for Arizona baseball to take that next step and compete for national championships again. It will be great asset for players as they will be able to practice and play in one of the best college facilities in the country. And it will be a great opportunity for the community to reconnect with the program and reinvigorate the support for Arizona baseball."
- Chip Hale, UA baseball letterman, 1984-87; Current New York Mets coach
"I am very excited for the players at Arizona and those that will play in the future. They are going to get to practice and play in a major league facility, which will help maximize their development as players. At the same time, I'm excited for the City of Tucson to have an established program play at Hi Corbett Field. I think it is a place where fans will truly embrace college baseball and the Arizona program. I am very proud of what the UA administration is doing to help enhance Arizona baseball."
- Shelley Duncan, UA baseball letterman, 1999-2001; Current Cleveland Indians player
"I am excited about the direction that Arizona baseball is headed. I think this move to Hi Corbett will engage the community and increase support for the program. We can immediately improve our facilities to continue recruiting great ballplayers. This will be one of the best facilities on the west coast and will help us compete for national championships. It is a really good move for the future of the program."
- Joe Estes, UA baseball letterman, 1984-86
"When I played, I had an attachment to three different ballparks. We played games at Hi Corbett, at UA Field and then at Sancet Stadium when it was built for my senior year. I really enjoyed playing at all three stadiums. I have listened to the pros and cons of this move and I can understand both sides. But this is something that can help in recruiting, help financially and help in hosting NCAA regional tournaments. I am in favor of anything that can help the program in those areas."
- Eddie Leon, UA baseball letterman, 1965-67