As the final act at Packard Stadium plays out this weekend, Arizona State officials are simultaneously raising the curtain on the new home of the school’s baseball team at Municipal Stadium in Phoenix.
ASU won last night’s opener of a three-game series with Utah that will mark the final weekend of play in the 40-year-old facility, scheduled to be razed to make way for future development at the corner of Rural Rd. and Rio Salado Pkwy, providing a new stream of revenue to help play for major construction plans that include those taking place on the football stadium.
The final game in the iconic facility that opened in 1974 with a game against the defending national champion, USC, will be next Tuesday when the Sun Devils host Abilene Christian in a 6:30 p.m. contest and then welcome their fans on to the field to join the team for one last group photo to commemorate the event.
Cory Hahn, who was paralyzed from the chest down during his freshman season as an ASU player in 2011, will throw out the first pitch.
So, to make the segue from old to new, ASU has extended an invitation to its fan base to turn out later this afternoon at Phoenix Muni to take advantage of a 3-5 p.m. open house for the general public that will include tours of the facility by members of the athletic department.
The team’s new home in Papago Park, just a few miles from campus, is actually a decade older than the one that is being torn down on the Tempe campus, but it underwent major renovations in 2003 and will have additional work done before the start of the 2015 college season.
Those capital improvements to the nearly 8,000-seat stadium (which just about doubles the seating capacity of Packard) will include a new state-of-the-art video board; updated clubhouse that will now include a player’s lounge, academic center and training room; and the creation of a grass berm and premium seating options.
Increased signage and branding will be used to promote the program’s storied past and a Legacy Walk will feature permanent plaques for the three former head coaches that helped lay the foundation of the program.
Phoenix Municipal became available when the MLB Athletics, who had held spring training there since 1982, moved from the Muni into Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. Hohokam became available when the Chicago Cubs departed that facility after building their own new stadium last year. ASU had originally hoped to move in with the Cubs, but negotiations on that deal broke down and the Muni became the fall-back.
But Municipal Stadium, while not the opulence of the Cubs’ new home, will provide the college with a major-league venue that will provide an enhanced experience for fans and a new recruiting tool for the coaches.
So there is the excitement of something new and better that will hopefully overcome the disappointment that many fans feel over the loss of history and tradition that housed the glory years of a great baseball program.
The late Jim Brock directed the program for 23 years during that era, winning two national championships and being named national coach of the year four times. His named was added to the official field designation when it became Bobby Winkles Field-Packard Stadium at Brock BallPark.
Brock’s widow, Pat, put a positive spin on the move: “I’ve had a wonderful life, and a big part of that took place in Packard Stadium. It will be very sad to leave here, but I do believe they are upgrading and going to a better facility because it’s about the team and the fans…and that can be moved anywhere.”