Feb. 20, 2018

By Jeff White (jwhite@virginia.edu)

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Twenty-eight hours before first pitch, construction crews were spread around Davenport Field yesterday afternoon, applying finishing touches inside and outside the stadium.

At end of the last season, a $18.76 million expansion began at Davenport Field, the home of the University of Virginia baseball team. Today, fans can see for themselves the transformation that’s taken place over the past eight months.

The 15th-ranked Cavaliers, who won two of three games over the weekend at a season-opening tournament in Florida, play their home opener against VMI (1-2) at 5 p.m. (First pitch, originally scheduled for 3 o’clock, was pushed back two hours to take advantage of unseasonably warm weather.)

“Our home opener is an exciting time for our team every year, but to be able to unveil this extraordinary addition to our stadium is particularly special this year,” head coach Brian O’Connor said. “Coupled with the great weather predicted, I expect today to provide one of the best opening day atmospheres that we’ve ever seen at Davenport Field.”

This is O’Connor’s 15th season at UVA, where he’s built one of the nation’s premier programs. Under O’Connor, the Wahoos are 641-240-2, with 14 appearances in the NCAA tournament and four trips to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Virginia was NCAA runner-up in 2014 and won the program’s first NCAA title in 2015.

While work will continue on several areas of the stadium as the season progresses, including the coaches’ offices along the right-field line, the fan experience should be mostly uninterrupted, as many of the remaining projects are aesthetic in nature.

Reserved seats are sold out this season, as are the club seats along the right-field line. In all, approximately 3,000 season tickets (reserved and general admission) have been sold.

Upgrades are evident throughout the ball park, starting with a wide sidewalk connecting Copley Road all the way to the new entrance in right field through which many fans will enter Davenport Field. Along this sidewalk fans will notice the two parking areas that have seen significant upgrades from their previous conditions.

The stairs lead up to a concourse behind the right-field fence from which fans can stand and watch the game. That portion of the concourse also overlooks the Cavaliers’ bullpen, which previously was along the left-field line. Also on the expanded concourse are new chairback seats in an area where in recent years some of UVA’s most faithful fans lined the wooden bleacher seats. Behind these seats are restrooms, concession stands, a new PA system and other amenities that will improve the fan experience.

Also new, and perhaps the most impressive feature of the expansion, is a field-level club along the wall next to the first-base line. It includes three rows of seating — 142 seats in all — which give the fan the feeling of being right on top of the field. Club members will also have access to a lounge with food, drink, multiple TVs and interior seating options.

Additional changes that have been completed include a 5,000-plus square-foot player development area. In all, the Cavaliers now have more than 10,000 square feet of dedicated indoor space for baseball-specific development of hitters and pitchers.

Other notable additions to Davenport Field include a barstool seating section with seating for groups, and elevator to service fans, a display that honors the members of the Virginia Baseball Hall of Fame. The first 15-person class was inducted last month during the program’s 16th Annual Step up to the Plate event.

“We have been very fortunate to be able incorporate many things from our program with the culmination of this project,” O’Connor said.

“I’ve mentioned this before, we were very excited to be able to honor and to thank all of the previous members of Virginia Baseball that have made this program so special with the celebration of the inaugural Virginia Baseball Hall of Fame Class. To be able to time that celebration closely with this project and to tie the past, present, and future together, is really special for our program.”

The concourse behind home plate is essentially unchanged, but fans will note major modifications along the left-field line. In the spot formerly occupied by the Cavaliers’ bullpen — the home dugout is now on the first-base side — are about 200 temporary chairback seats. (Permanent seats will be installed there after the season ends.)

“We have had such great support from our fans and donors,” O’Connor said, “that it was extremely important for our stadium to continue to grow in order to offer them a premium game-day experience, and I think we have accomplished that.”

Fans will notice other changes at UVA baseball games this spring. For information on Davenport Field’s policies, including the use of clear bags, click here.

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