Emotions were running high for Oregon’s Cheridan Hawkins as she stared down Stanford’s Kylie Sorenson before the first pitch of March 24’s game. Not only was it Oregon softball’s home-opener for conference play, the game was also the christening of Jane Sanders Stadium, the Ducks’ new home.
“I was a little bit nervous just because we’ve never played here … We wanted to do good for the whole Sanders family and really break this stadium in on the first day with real positive juju,” Hawkins said.
After playing at Howe Field and using grime, rat and mold-filled locker rooms at MacArthur Court since 1987, the new $17.2 million stadium is like a dream come true for this program and its fanbase. $16 million of the project came via donation from 1951 Oregon alum Bob Sanders in honor of his late wife, Jane Sanders.
Molly Sanders, the daughter of Bob and Jane, threw out the ceremonial first pitch after Oregon head coach Mike White and Oregon assistant athletic director Lisa Peterson gave impassioned speeches about what the Sanders family and this stadium means to this program.
The stadium broke ground on June 4, 2015, and after pouring it’s first bit of concrete on August 28, was finally completed a few days prior to the home-opener. While there are still some knicks and knacks that need to be completed according to Dave Quivey, project coordinator for contractor Howard S. Wright, the stadium is complete.
“We were waiting for such a long time for a stadium and today got here,” White said after the opener. “It’s just a fun feeling, surreal almost because it’s something you dream about and then it’s here and you’re out there playing a game.”
The team facility houses multiple suites for donors to use as well as a team meeting room, an equipment room, White’s office, an office for the assistant coaches and a state-of-the-art locker room for the players. After never utilizing the showers in the old locker rooms underneath Mac Court, the players can’t get enough of the updated showers. Not only is there a plug-in system that allows them to listen to music while getting dressed, they also have control of the speakers that are in the bathroom and lounge area.
Attached to the team facility is an indoor training center for the players to use when the weather isn’t cooperating. The training center is big enough to house an infield for grounders and base-running work and has multiple nets drop down from the roof to be used for batting cages.
Upon entering the stadium, the first thing noticeable is the v-shaped roof that overshadows nearly two-thirds of the 1,500 available seats. A clay infield and artificial turf make Howe Field (still the name of the field itself) usable in nearly all weather conditions.
Highlights of the field include the “O-R-E-G-O-N” on the centerfield wall as well as the $250,000, 12-by-36 foot scoreboard that sits just beyond the right field fence. The stadium will add 1,000 bleacher seats in left and right center field to house 2,500 total people as well as having an entrance on 18th Avenue for those in the bleacher seats.
The most important part of the grand opening was the Duck’s 2-0 victory over Stanford, a day and game that will forever live in the hearts of Oregon softball, and all those involved.
“It’s an absolute honor to be chosen to throw the first pitch ever in this stadium and on that mound,” Hawkins said. “It’s something that I’ll never forget and will be with me forever.”
Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka