Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium
1700 E. 2nd Street
Tucson, AZ 85719
Already one of the premier venues in college softball, Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium seems to get better every year. In the last four years alone, Hillenbrand has drawn 342,788 fans over 146 dates, shaking out to 2,348 fans per game. In 2011, 77,129 fans turned turnstiles at the stadium, setting an NCAA record.
In the last few years the Wildcats have made a number of changes to this Mecca of softball. Prior to the 2014 season, Arizona will complete the first phase of a facelift of the historic stadium. A new locker room and team room facility will be erected along with brand new batting cages in foul territory beyond the home bullpen.
In 2010, Arizona added a new padded outfield wall – the first of its kind in the stadium’s 20-year history. The wall is festooned with the accomplishments of teams and players past, and will provide some literal and figurative comfort to outfielders in pursuit of a fly ball.
Fall 2008 saw the stadium install an outfield warning track for the first time ever, along with a new weather-resistant infield surface that keeps the playing field game-ready more than three-quarters of the year.
In 2006, UA debuted a state-of-the-art videoboard and new scoreboard beyond the right field fence. In between innings, the Wildcat faithful enjoy highlights from years past and present, as well as music videos. During the game, Arizona’s batters have personalized video introductions, and movie clips provide entertainment during breaks in the action.
|Hillenbrand Stadium's batting cages|
Also in 2006, covered batting cages were erected to allow UA to work on hitting in any weather conditions. Adjacent to the batting cages, permanent bleachers were installed to expand the Hillenbrand Stadium's capacity to 2,956 and offer a majestic view of Tucson's desert sunsets. In November 2006, ground broke on a new clubhouse that features a players' lounge and an area for the Wildcats to review game film. In addition to UA's team room, an umpire's room and training room were erected for the 2007 campaign. Ultimately, head coach Mike Candrea says that the main theme for the clubhouse is to celebrate Arizona's tradition.
|Hillenbrand Stadium Videoboard|
"Our goal in constructing the team room is to capture the history of Arizona softball," Candrea says. "It will allow us to remember the past and remind our student-athletes of the heritage they share."
Beginning in 2010, the audio system was enhanced to project clear and balanced sound throughout the stadium.
Whether they come out to the tune of 3,541 for an exhibition pitting Team USA against Arizona, or for a Wildcats' regular-season game, the Arizona fans have proved themselves as some of the best in the country.
Last year, Hillenbrand Stadium's overall attendance passed the 500,000 mark, and since 2000 UA has drawn at least 32,000 fans per year.
|Arizona's 13th best crowd in school history.|
One reason for the stadium's appeal obviously is the Cats' typical home success - victories. UA has played to a 614-72 record at home. That's 90 victories in every 100 games. In 2002, UCLA snapped a remarkable 70-game home field winning streak the Cats had built, which remains the national record.
That fan support underscores the attraction of UA softball and its home field, named in honor of the late Rita Hillenbrand, sister of the late Wildcat benefactor William G. Hillenbrand and his wife, Doby (Delores D.). The couple financed the stadium and initial landscaping project, and the Hillenbrand family has continued to contribute funds to support Arizona softball and Wildcat athletics.
The family has provided tremendous support for a number of UA athletic programs through gifts to develop and support the UA's aquatic center, the baseball stadium and Arizona's football program. Another focal point in daily Wildcat athletics is the John W. Hillenbrand Meeting Center, named in memory of Bill's late father. That facility gave the athletics department a main auditorium, a half dozen classrooms and meeting rooms, and various office spaces used for the athletics department's mentoring programs and its Commitment to Athletes' Total Success (C.A.T.S.) program.
The NCAA has found the facility to be a quality site for postseason play as well, with The University of Arizona playing host to NCAA Regionals in 14 of the stadium's 16 years of existence. Regional (FSN) and national (ESPN, CSTV) television networks have also found the Wildcats and the stadium to be attractive to their audiences for a number of broadcasts since the facility was built for the 1993 season, including over 20 nationally televised contests in the last four years. All games attract a solid contingent of fans, area television and print reporters.
Hillenbrand Stadium and its success in helping bring Division I collegiate softball into increased national focus made it a national model in the early 1990s for dynamic softball programs. As on-campus college softball facilities go, it had elite status for several years until it engendered considerable copying. Today, major universities around the country are putting their teams in facilities with style and substance.
But Hillenbrand maintains one special feature, which makes it second to none -- the infield, outfield and foul territories provide a top playing surface. Tucson's climate and round-the-year maintenance keep the facility in game-ready condition more than 300 days per year. Aside from the .923 home winning percentage, Arizona and visiting teams alike enjoy the facility for its playing surface. In 2004, the infield was rebuilt with new clay and soil composition.
The University of Arizona softball program moved into the facility for the 1993 season and went out and proved it was equal to the trappings by winning consecutive NCAA championships and leading the nation in attendance in 1994 and 1995. UA added another back-to-back NCAA title splurge in 1996 and 1997, a sixth title in 2001, and the most recent back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007. The outfield fence is festooned with those and other championship banners. UA also has won 10 Pac-10 titles since moving into Hillenbrand Stadium. The Cats also led the nation in attendance for three years from 2000-2002. Arizona has led the nation in attendance from 2006-2010.
Arizona in Hillenbrand Stadium
Overall: 583-69 (Through 2013)
Pac-10/12 Games: 206-53
NCAA Regionals: 57-5
Top Winning Streaks
70 games, May 5, 2000 - April 6, 2002
45 games, May 3, 1996 to March 6, 1998
29 games, 1995-96
28 games, 1993-94
26 games, 1994-95
**led nation in average
Top 30 Crowds in Hillenbrand
|1.||3,541||3-26-04, USA National Team|
|5.||2,987||4-30-02, Arizona State|
|6.||2,896||5-29-10, Brigham Young (NCAA)|
|9.||2,854||3-5-11, Minnesota & Idaho State (DH)|
|10.||2,844||4-26-08, Oregon State|
|12.||2,811||4-19-03, Arizona State|
|2,794||4-10-09, Arizona State|
|19.||2,778||4-22-11, Arizona State|
|20.||2,775||4-24-10, Oregon State|
|27.||2,738||5-20-11, Harvard (NCAA)|
|29.||2,732||5-4-13, Arizona State|
Stadium Debut: 1,272 crowd, Feb.13, 1993, vs. Texas San Antonio