CARBONDALE — SIU will renovate its second-oldest athletic facility beginning this summer with a new baseball stadium.
On Thursday at its monthly meeting, the SIU Board of Trustees approved a $3.4 million transformation of Abe Martin Field that will bring a new baseball stadium, synthetic turf field, concourse, press box and lights. The facility will be called Richard “Itchy” Jones Stadium, after the former coach who took the Salukis to the College World Series three times in the 1970s.
“It’s all good. It’s a great day for Saluki baseball,” SIU coach Ken Henderson said Thursday. “That’s gotta be one of the best days in the history of the program, I would think, to get the final OK for the renovation, and to get it all. The stadium, the turf and the lights. A lot of work by a lot of people, so it’s definitely a group effort and obviously we wouldn’t be talking about this unless all the donors stepped up, all the alumni, and it happened.”
The SIU athletic department raised nearly $1.8 million in private gifts to fund the project, which came in over a million dollars under the original budget of $5 million.
With a matching loan from the university, SIU will be able to update the second-oldest athletic facility on campus. Only Davies Gym, which houses the volleyball team and was built in 1925, is older than “Ancient Abe.”
Through the Saluki Way project, an $83 million effort funded partly by the City of Carbondale, SIU opened Saluki Stadium and a renovated SIU Arena in 2010. The Salukis also built the Lew Hartzog Track and Field Complex with funds from that campaign.
Renderings from SIU have patio seating along the first and third base lines on the concourse at Jones Stadium and a security fence around the new facility. The clubhouse, which is named after Jones, will be named after former coach Dan Callahan and remain mostly intact. The Hill, a longtime Saluki baseball gathering spot, will remain along the first base side.
Construction is expected to start after this season and be finished by next spring.
SIU does plan to begin charging admission for home baseball games once the facility is completed.
Admission is expected to be around $5 for non-students, similar to what it cost to see the softball team at Charlotte West Stadium. It is not clear if fans will be able to watch the game from The Hill at no charge, since the security fencing for Jones Stadium borders it but does not obstruct its view to the field.
BOT passes hike in athletic fee: The board also approved a $5 increase to the intercollegiate athletic fees students pay beginning this fall, a 1.67 percent increase.
Students enrolled for 12 hours in the fall semester will now pay $306 per semester for athletics. Athletics asked for the increase in order to fulfill increasing operation and travel budgets.
On Twitter: @THefferman_SI