June 6, 2006
SPOKANE, Wash. - Ground was broken on the new home of Gonzaga University baseball on Tuesday - the Patterson Baseball Complex and Washington Trust Field.
Located south of the McCarthey Athletic Center - site of the former August/ART Stadium and Pecarovich Field - and east of the Gonzaga Law School, the $7-$8 million project will be ready for the 2007 season.
The complex is named for the family of Michael Patterson ('69), chairman of Gonzaga's Board of Trustees and a major contributor to the project. Pete Stanton, chairman and CEO of Washington Trust Bank, and Jack Heath, president of WTB, were the major forces behind the field naming. South Side Little League is also a major sponsor through the efforts of Irv Zakheim, CEO of Zak Designs, and plans were also announced for the Northern Quest Casino Plaza to be located behind the third base line stands, general manager Peter Riverso representing Northern Quest.
Gonzaga President Fr. Robert J. Spitzer said the "baseball stadium and leadership exemplifies not only the love of a sport, or the love of a university or the love for a community what shows what can happen when you have a belief for all of the above."
Fr. Spitzer recalled an early meeting when it was reported only $700,000 of the multi-million dollar project had been pledged and that Mike Patterson stepped up and said he would make a gift.
"The ball started rolling, and it seemed like all of a sudden it was meant to happen, there was a spirit behind it and there was a sense of hope. I have never seen a project with so little foundation to it roll that fast," Spitzer said.
Patterson, who was joined by his wife Emma and sons Christian and Chris at the ceremony, referred to the "team effort" responsible for making the project a reality.
"Where can you find such a place to nurture youth," Patterson asked. "There is a deep and rich tradition at Gonzaga, and we are proud to be a part of that tradition. We have the best basketball facility in the West Coast Conference and now we'll have the best baseball facility in the WCC.
Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession said "Gonzaga is the anchor tenant of the University District and we are excited about the baseball complex."
The person who directly benefits the most is probably head baseball coach Mark Machtolf."I'm a converted a Zag," said the former Stanford University baseball standout. "And that's the way I feel. I'd like to thank Coach (former head coach Steve Hertz, currently the director of athletic relations since handing the coaching reigns to Machtolf three years ago). I wouldn't be here without Coach Hertz. I'm not going to even try to thank everybody individually, but I just want to thank everybody for a job well done."
Machtolf said the project will allow the Bulldogs better flexibility in practice, especially getting players to class and back to practice quickly.
"They are students first and the classroom will never be slighted here," Machtolf said.
Machtolf said the new complex will also aid in scheduling, giving the Bulldogs a chance to play home games earlier in the season and get teams to make return trips to Gonzaga as part of a home-and-home series.
"It will force teams to come back here and play us and that can result in more W's," Machtolf noted.
But the biggest advantage is in recruiting.
"The academics and the people at Gonzaga are second to none across the country, and now we have a baseball facility that will be second to none," Machtolf said. "We'll be able to bring the best players and the best students to campus and not lose them (to other schools)."
With that, Fr. Spitzer, Mike and Emma Patterson, Machtolf, Heath, Riverso, Zakheim, Chuck Murphy, vice president for finance who oversees athletics, and Hertz donned hard hats and shovels for the ceremonial groundbreaking.
Most of the infrastructure is already in place - field drainage, sprinkler system and dugouts - with Tuesday's ceremony officially starting the stadium portion of the project. The stadium will have approximately 1,300 permanent theater seats with seating for additional fans down both the left and right field lines on a grass berm. The facility will also include field lights; home and visitors locker rooms; baseball offices; laundry, training and equipment facilities; batting cages; a natural grass field, and modern restrooms and concession stands for the convenience of the fans.
A 50-foot high-ball net will extend from each foul pole toward center field to keep balls off Spokane Falls Boulevard to the south and Cincinnati Street to the east. A 30-foot "batter's eye" will be placed behind the center field fence.
A new south entrance onto campus will be constructed just beyond the center field fence, with an electronic information board and a stone marker welcoming visitors.
Representing project contractor Garco Construction of Spokane at the groundbreaking were Tim Welsh, Frank Etter, Steve LaRue and Sean LaRue. ALSC Architects of Spokane which handled the design of the new stadium was represented by Indy Dehal. Garco Construction and ALSC Architects also held the same roles in the design and construction of the McCarthey Athletic Center which opened in the fall of 2004.