TERRE HAUTE —
Build it… and they will come. The Missouri Valley Conference and Indiana State University made that famous line from the movie “Fields Of Dreams” reality Thursday.
The MVC announced that ISU will host the 2014 MVC Baseball Tournament at Bob Warn Field. The Sycamores successfully out-bid Wichita State for the tournament and won the right to host it by a 6-2 vote by MVC Joint Committee, which is comprised of university administrators.
ISU has not hosted the MVC Baseball Tournament since 1982 – the only time it had previously hosted the event.
“We’re all excited and happy they voted to give us the tournament. When the commitment was made by the administration to build the facility, this was something we had in mind,” ISU baseball coach Rick Heller said.
ISU found out it would host the MVC Tournament two weeks ago, but waited until the MVC made public all of its 2013-14 tournament sites before going public with it. Baseball will be the only MVC Tournament sport ISU will host in 2013-14.
ISU bid a $25,000 guarantee to host the tournament. It will also have to reserve hotel blocs for opposing teams.
ISU has bid for the MVC Tournament in every season since Bob Warn Field was renovated in time for the 2010 season. Bids in 2011, 2012 and 2013 proved unsuccessful. ISU Senior Women’s Administrator Angie Lansing, who represents ISU on the MVC championships committee, made the pitch for ISU.
“I just pitched what a great facility we have and that our community will embrace it. We have great hotel partners. Many are corporate sponsors. That was huge,” Lansing said.
“I think the fact that [ISU] is another alternative in the Valley, another location, and the fact we haven’t hosted plays in everyone’s mind,” she added.
Lansing also said the MVC’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee, a group intended to give student-athletes more say into some MVC decisions, played a role in the championship site vote for several sports.
Wichita State hasn’t hosted the tournament since 2010 and was considered a favorite by outsiders to regain the tournament.
“I was very pleasantly surprised. I thought there was a chance it would get awarded to Wichita. When Greg [Walter, MVC Assistant Commissioner for Institutional Services] read off our name, I did a private little celebration. I think ultimately, surprised or not, more people voted for us, and from that perspective, there wasn’t much surprise [in the room],” Lansing said.
Indiana State and Terre Haute have experience hosting major athletic events. ISU hosted the NCAA Cross Country Nationals from 2003-11 and the Nationals will return in November after one year at Louisville. ISU has recently hosted MVC track and field and women’s golf championships.
Though the improvements made at Warn Field made it possible to host the tournament, the facility will no doubt be subject to scrutiny from the rest of the league.
The facility meets the minimum requirements set by the MVC and the successful bid was done with the facility “as is.” Still, Warn Field lacks amenities that have unofficially been considered standard at MVC Tournaments of the recent past.
Warn Field does not have clubhouses for both teams, nor a bathroom on the third base side. It does not have a permanent building to host hospitality facilities and the press box is considered very small considering the amount of television, radio, print and university staff that typically attend the event.
ISU is cognizant of this. ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman will meet with ISU President Daniel Bradley within the next month to discuss improvements to the facility. The hope is that the successful bid for the tournament could be a catalyst to make further improvements to the facility.
“It wasn’t true for a long time here, but most facilities are works in progress. There’s always a little bit more to do. We found that out with the baseball facility,” Prettyman said.
“It was a night and day difference the first day we played, but we later realized there were some more things that needed to be done. We did the outfield, we upgraded some other things. As we get closer to the championship, there will be more things that need to be done,” he added.
Prettyman said the press box is a priority and it “must be addressed.” He said the commitment is there to do it, but that how to do it hasn’t been decided yet.
ISU will be the second “non-traditional” MVC baseball host in as many seasons. Illinois State, which will host the MVC Tournament next week, might serve as a sort of litmus test for ISU. Illinois State’s Duffy Bass Field was remodeled in 2011, but some of the same concerns that will no doubt be projected onto ISU have been cast upon Illinois State as well.
In the end, Prettyman feels winning the tournament is not only a boon for ISU, but for Terre Haute itself.
“There will be thousands of people coming to this event between players, coaches and fans. They’ll stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants. It’s good for our town. It’s going to be a part of moving the baseball culture of Terre Haute forward,” Prettyman said.
Todd Golden can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org