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, but what makes the venue so special are the patrons that routinely fill its seats. The most dedicated fans in college softball have packed the stadium since its opening in 1993. Each of the last seven seasons, the average attendance has been in the 2,000s.
In the last few years the Wildcats have made a number of changes to this Mecca of softball. Prior to the 2014 season, Arizona completed the first phase of a facelift of the historic stadium. Beyond the home bullpens, a state-of-the art locker room and team room was erected, rivaling any facility in the nation, regardless of sport. Additionally, new batting cages were installed on the east side of the Lapan Family Center. Arizona’s former team room was repurposed as an athletic training facility to provide players with an air conditioned room with greater resources to receive medical attention.
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.
Also in 2006, permanent bleachers were installed to expand Hillenbrand Stadium’s capacity to 2,956 and offer a majestic view of Tucson’s desert sunsets.
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.
In 2012, the stadium’s all-time attendance reached 700,000 fans. Since 2000, UA has drawn at least 32,000 fans each year, a figure that has risen into the 40,000s four times, the 50,000 plateau three times and in 2011, nearly 80,000 fans entered the stadium’s gates.
One reason for the stadium’s appeal obviously is the Cats’ typical home success - victories. UA has played to a 641-78 record at home. That’s 89 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 19 of the stadium’s 23 years of existence. Regional (Pac-12 Networks) 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 75 nationally televised contests in the last nine 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 .900 home winning percentage, Arizona and visiting teams alike enjoy the facility for its playing surface. In 2004 and again in 2008, 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 wall 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 four of the past 10 seasons.
ARIZONA IN HILLEBRAND STADIUM
Overall: 641-78 (.892)
Pac-10/12 Games: 223-60 (.788)
NCAA Regionals: 63-7 (.900)
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|
|22.||2,765||3-29-15, Arizona State|
|28.||2,738||5-20-11, Harvard (NCAA)|
|30.||2,732||5-4-13, Arizona State|
Stadium Debut: 1,272 crowd, Feb.13, 1993, vs. Texas San Antonio