COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Columbus State University is planning a major overhaul of its 44-year old baseball stadium that dramatically changes the look and feel for fans and players.
The Columbus State University Cougars baseball team will soon get a completely renovated stadium compliments of the owners of a chain of Burger King restaurants. News Leader 9's Tyrone McCoy outlines the plan to remodel the more than 40-year-old facility and students' concerns.
Columbus State University announces plans to get a new stadium with a new name.
"With the generosity of the Schuster family here in town, we're going to take the existing stadium and kind of gut it," says CSU baseball coach Greg Appleton. "And do a total renovation. It's going to be all chair-back seats. We're going enclose the backside of it and actually put a roof over the top of it."
At around $1 million, Coach Appleton says the new Burger King Stadium at Ragsdale Field is made possible entirely with private donations, including a significant investment from the owners of Schuster Enterprises for the second time in the baseball team's history.
It's an investment that officials at CSU say gives them the assurances that diamonds like this one can stick around forever.
"It's very humbling to think that they would put that kind of money into our baseball program and our facility," Appleton adds.
And CSU students also welcome the stadium makeover
"As long as it's adding more to us instead of taking away from students, I think that's very beneficial," says student Ramon Johnson. "It'll increase more revenue through the CSU Athletic Department. That's great in my opinion."
"Since it's coming from private donations, it's not coming out of our pockets I don't think that's a bad thing," adds another student Charissa McKee. "It might bring more people to our university."
Coach Appleton and university officials tell us the new project will finally give the championship-winning Cougar baseball team the proper facility.
"I think that Coach Appleton and Coach Ragsdale have done a great job with this program and it's got such a great tradition that it needs to have a stadium that represents the program," explains Greg Shultz, Director of Development for Athletics at CSU.
Coach Appleton tells us crews will break ground for the remodeling this coming October. Appleton says he hopes to open the 2015 baseball season in their new stadium in February 2015. A university official says the new stadium will not have an affect on the cost of tuition for students.
The university's baseball field was built in 1970 as Cougar Field. Stadium seating, a press box and lighting were added in 1990, thanks to a gift from Schuster Enterprises. In 1996, a baseball clubhouse and concession-restroom building were added with a donation from Charles B. Morrow, then the owner of the Columbus Red Stixx baseball organization, a Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The field was named in 2000 in honor of Charles F. Ragsdale, Columbus State's first baseball coach, who won 476 games during his 15-year tenure.
This next chapter of the baseball complex should start this summer and will include:
Classic, brick-face look surrounding the stadium
Roof over the entire seating area to provide shaded seating
Formal, grand entrance
750 chair-back seats
New press box
Donor recognition wall
Picnic terrace decking beyond left field wall for group and corporate hospitality
"I am very excited about the renovation project for our baseball stadium at Columbus State," said Greg Appleton, current CSU baseball coach. "The generous donation by the Schuster family will make our facility one of the best in nation for Division II programs."
Columbus State University President Tim Mescon was thrilled in talking about the Schusters' long-term and important support of the university, which also has a building housing student services that bears the Schuster name.
"We cannot overstate the impact that the Schusters have had on this campus," Mescon said. "We look forward to being able to name the stadium in recognition of the long-term relationship we have had with Todd Schuster and his family. Columbus State University has benefited greatly from the Schusters' involvement and will continue to do so for years to come."
Gifts supporting the baseball stadium renovation will be counted toward the university's comprehensive campaign, which is still in a "silent phase" as priorities are developed, goals are established, and future contributors are identified.