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S. Carolina Baseball Stadium Won’t be Ready Until 2009

Wed September 26, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Pete Iacobelli - AP SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina’s new baseball stadium grew much more expensive — more than triple its original expected cost — and had its debut pushed back until 2009.

A panel of the university’s board of trustees approved increasing the project’s budget to $35.6 million — more than three times the original cost. The panel also was told the stadium would not open for two more seasons, sending the baseball team back to crumbling Sarge Frye Field for one more year.

The university’s vice president and chief financial officer, Rick Kelly, said several setbacks and a drastic rise in construction costs the past three years caused the increase.

When the university first announced its plans three years ago, the new field was to build next to the Colonial Center, where school’s basketball teams play, at a cost of $10 million. In late 2005, university trustees approved plans for a 6,800-seat stadium nearer the Congaree River with a $20 million price tag.

That swelled to $24 million last fall when athletic director Eric Hyman detailed a $194.9 million plan to revamp many of South Carolina’s athletic facilities.

Kelly told the trustees’ Buildings and Grounds Committee the project was up to $28 million — and that was before requesting the extra $7.6 million.

“The cost of construction is just enormously expensive right now,” Kelly said.

Also, Kelly said a geological survey estimated the 29-acre site contained approximately 30 percent granite when it was actually closer to 45 percent. That meant massive granite boulders would have to be broken down even more after they were taken from the ground so they could be hauled away.

“I guess it’s just not an exact science,” Kelly said.

The request for extra funds would have to be approved by the State Budget and Control Board in November. Kelly said he thinks that group will question the growing costs, but “I think they’ll be supportive once they hear all the facts that are associated with this.”

The university would contribute $4 million to cover the extra costs with the athletic department funding the other $3.6 million. Hyman did not expect the additional money to affect other athletic department construction projects.

Hyman said two architects working on the baseball stadium took other jobs, which added to the delays.

Kelly, Hyman and baseball coach Ray Tanner met Sept. 13 and agreed there was no way the stadium would be ready for next season.

Tanner, South Carolina’s coach since the 1997 season, said he was disappointed for his older players, whom he recruited with the promise of a new stadium.

“But as I explained to some of the guys yesterday, we only get one chance to do this right,” Tanner said.

“As much as we’d all like to be there to open up our season” in February, Tanner said. “I want it to be a showplace. It’s for the long run, it’s not a short-run project and something we can be proud of for a long time.”

Without further delays, Kelly expected the stadium to be complete near the start of the 2008-09 academic year. For Tanner, that means he can have his players work out and take batting practice there in the fall and feel totally familiar with the new surroundings when the 2009 season starts.

“Now we sort of have a direction at this point,” Tanner said. “And we can be ready to kick it off with some time at the stadium.”

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