Stadium opens Friday in game with rival Ohio in MAC play

Schoonover Stadium on the site of Gene Michael Field, is the renovated home of the Kent State baseball team, which begins play at home Friday against Ohio. Renovations to the stadium included a new scoreboard, dugouts and press box.

Credit: Beth Rankin

A jump in the standings is normally inferred when the phrase “worst to first” is used.

The Kent State baseball team is making a different leap this season.

The Flashes are looking to make their jump with the opening of Schoonover Stadium, Kent State’s newly renovated baseball stadium.

Laing Kennedy, Kent State athletic director, said he feels Schoonover Stadium will be a major change in the way the facilities are ranked as far as MAC schools go.

“Prior to the construction, our facility would be near the bottom of the MAC,” Kennedy said. “Once the stadium is completed, it will be like we are going from worst to first.”

Coming off a season that included a first-place finish at the Mid-American Conference Championships and a victory over nationally-ranked Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, the Flashes are looking to continue that momentum with the renovated stadium.

The $3 million stadium project is named after ’49 Kent State graduate and former member of the baseball team Hal Schoonover and his wife Julia. The naming rights were granted after their son Steve Schoonover and the Schoonover Foundation of Minden, La., made a $1.53 million donation that was, at the time, the largest single gift in the history of the school’s athletic department.

The new stadium will mean a lot for a team that has a tradition of on-field success but has never had the facilities to match. The Flashes have won four MAC Tournament championships and have competed in the NCAA tournament seven times since the program’s inception, but Gene Michael Field was lagging behind in terms of quality of facility when compared to the teams they were competing against. Schoonover Stadium has caught up the program.

To accommodate the construction of the stadium, the Flashes played their first 22 games on the road this season before hosting Ohio Friday, but Kennedy said their waiting will pay off as construction is progressing according to plan.

“We are on schedule with construction,” Kennedy said. “We should be able to play April 1.”

The new stadium will feature many improvements over Gene Michael Field.

Some of the most notable changes include doubling the seating capacity to 1,148, a landscaped plaza, picnic area, an entrance gate with a historical memorabilia display and a skybox for media and VIPs.

Not to be left out, the players will get to enjoy improved field lighting, PA systems, a new scoreboard and dugouts.

Construction is not expected to be completely finished by opening day Kennedy said, but Phase 1 of the project, which includes the actual field improvements such as seating, field, and PA systems, will be done by Thursday and Phase 2, which includes landscaping, and other amenities, are progressing as expected and will be completed as the season goes on.

Kennedy said the new stadium will mean a lot for a program that has always been a strong part of the school’s athletic tradition.

“It’s a real jewel in the crown of the program.” Kennedy said. “The quality of the baseball program is really impressive.”

Contact sports reporter Colin Harris at cjharris@kent.edu.

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