CARBONDALE - Richard "Itchy" Jones Stadium is coming to SIU's campus beginning after this baseball season.
The $3.4 million renovation of Abe Martin Field, the Salukis' baseball home since 1964, was passed by the SIU Board of Trustees at its monthly meeting Thursday. The project will build a new stadium and concourse, a new concession stand, new grandstands, a new press box, a new synethetic turf field, security fencing and new lights. Renderings from SIU have patio areas along the first and third-base lines behind the stands, a little bit like Charlotte West Stadium, and in-ground dugouts.
"It's all good. It's a great day for Saluki baseball," SIU coach Ken Henderson said. "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 that was passed by the board last December. With a matching loan from the university, SIU will be able to update the second-oldest athletic facility on campus.
Only Davis 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 fundraising campaign.
Construction is expected to start after this season is completed and be finished by next spring. The clubhouse, which will be renamed after former coach Dan Callahan, will remain largely intact, with some security fencing around it.
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.
The new field, which will have Astro Turf Gameday Grass XPE, will also have a new drainage system. It will be similar to the turf at Rent One Park, where the Southern Illinois Miners play, and will allow the team more flexibility to practice and play in bad weather.
To see what the new stadium will look like when it's completed, click on the PDF link with this story.
On Twitter: @THefferman_SI