Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 9, 2013

Does WVU really need a new ballpark?

By Mickey Furfari
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s baseball team has won all six of its home games so far this spring at Hawley Field.

These are the scores and attendance figures for each non-conference contest:

•Eastern Kentucky, 2-1, attendance 206.

•New Orleans (Game 1), 11-2, attendance 191.

•New Orleans (Game 2), 12-2, attendance 326.

•New Orleans (Games 3 and 4), 5-1 and 4-3, doubleheader, attendance 303.

•Marshall, 10-2, attendance 544.

The average attendance for those six home games was exactly 288.3 per game.

Granted, the weather was nippy most of these days. But they were typical of what Morgantown has in March and April.

Do you think WVU turned a profit, financially, for any of those six games? I don’t think so. They haven’t in past years.

Grant Dovey, WVU publicist for baseball, estimates that 1,500 people could be accommodated at Hawley Field’s bleacher seats which were donated by a Morgantown company years ago.

But I can’t recall when there ever was an overflow crowd for any home games.

Now let’s look at West Virginia’s baseball attendance average for each of the last 10 seasons at home:

• 2003 — 27 games, attendance average per game, 174.

•2004 — 29 games, attendance average per game, 245.

•2005 — 21 games, attendance average per game, 215.

•2006 — 28 games, attendance average per game, 245.

•2007 — 23 games, attendance average per game, 280.

•2008 — 24 games, attendance average per game, 324.

• 2009 — 27 games, attendance average per game, 326.

•2010 — 27 games, attendance average per game, 304.

• 2011 — 27 games, attendance average per game, 304

•2012 — 26 games, attendance average per game, 325.

Do you think those averages of home game attendance for the past 10 years merit the construction of a new baseball park near a cold Morgantown shopping mall?

I’m told that would cost millions of dollars. But locker rooms could be built on either side of the Hawley Field dugouts for a few thousand dollars, according to knowledgeable people.

What’s more, the playing surface of Hawley Field is reportedly the best in northern West Virginia and it’s located within close walking distance in the WVU Coliseum complex. I am told that the turf was transplanted from an organized baseball stadium many years ago.

Keep in mind, too, that the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics was $13 million in the red for fiscal 2012.

Isn’t it time to cut back on unnecessary spending? Growing numbers of former buyers of now-unaffordable tickets for the games in the two major sports believe it’s past time.

In my opinion, baseball — collegiately or professionally — will never pay its way in this city. I will believe that until somebody proves me wrong.