Ron Wellman's Column: Renovations at Gene Hooks Field

Aug. 27, 2010

If you've been in the vicinity of Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park, you have undoubtedly noticed lots of construction taking place at the facility. And if you are in the stands for the football season-opener on Sept. 2, you will be able to see into the baseball stadium and notice the progress.

When Wake Forest University acquired the former Ernie Shore Field, we realized that there were a number of changes that needed to be made to bring the stadium up to par with the level of our other athletic facilities. Upon purchasing the stadium from the City of Winston-Salem, we immediately renovated the home clubhouse, added some outdoor batting cages, and began the process of painting many parts of the park. We also removed much of the advertising from the outfield wall.

The current improvements include a new outfield wall as well as an Astroturf playing surface. The wall, which will have a two-foot brick base, will give Gene Hooks Field the same Virginia brick look that you see inside BB&T Field and on the Reynolda campus. The stadium will begin to take on a true Wake Forest feel. Rather than the typical warning track in front of the outfield wall, there will be a terrace leading up to the wall from foul pole to foul pole. That will provide some interesting ventures to the wall by outfielders (especially visiting outfielders) chasing fly balls.

The addition of Astroturf is significant for several reasons. First, this is not at all like the original version of AstroTurf, which was more like a carpet with very short fibers. This edition features fibers that more resemble a blade of grass and will not distort the game as early AstroTurf surfaces could do. This new surface allows for a truer bounce of the ball and should eliminate bad hops that can plague a dirt and grass field.

The interesting part of this surface is that the only dirt will be on the pitcher's mound. All other portions of the field will be AstroTurf, including the base paths and the batter's box. The "skin" portion of the infield and the batter's area will be brown and will certainly appear to be dirt. It will be a unique experience for our baseball fans.

Before the turf is installed, the field is being completely leveled and prepped for the installation of the turf. We hope to have the field ready to use by the end of September so Coach Tom Walter and his staff will be able to hold a complete fall practice schedule on the new surface.

The AstroTurf will allow us a better chance to play year round. The field will drain better after a rain storm and will give the players a consistent feel throughout the year.

The AstroTurf installation will not signal the completion of renovations to the field. Future phases will address the seating area. Although those plans have not been finalized, our plan is to make the spectator experience for Demon Deacon fans the best in the country.

Be sure to take a look at the stadium when you come to BB&T Field next month. I think you will like the improvements.

Go Deacs!

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