April 13, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – On Mar. 1, 2012, phase one of the renovations at Lobo Field began. A new playing surface, new dugouts, a new scoreboard and renovations of the outfield wall are all scheduled to be part of this initial stage of the project.
Also on the docket? New seating behind home plate, some of which has already been built, a plaza area connecting the baseball field to the softball field, and the expansion of tennis facilities.
“Construction has begun and it’s an exciting time,” UNM head baseball coach Ray Birmingham said. “To move forward from 1965, when the last serious construction project happened, is indicative of the university’s commitment to Lobo baseball.”
Ever since he took the reins of the head coach position nearly five years ago, Birmingham has wanted to rebuild UNM baseball from the ground up. He is working towards his goal of taking the Lobos to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., and has had some success already. The Lobos have reached the NCAA postseason in each of the last two seasons, after only one trip in the history of the program prior to that, and has the team positioned for a third-straight trip as they currently sit in first place in the Mountain West.
But he also wants the Lobos to have a home field they, and the school, can be proud of. The team has played the majority of its home games at Isotopes Park since 2003, with Lobo Field being used as the primary practice field. The renovations will allow the team to return home, so to speak, once and for all.
“It is a start of New Mexico coming together in an effort to do something special, do something great, to be who we can be with a can-do attitude,” he said when groundbreaking for the renovations took place. “It is a big deal to me.”
Birmingham, a native of Hobbs, N.M., has had an up-close view of the construction over the past six weeks and is extremely appreciative of all the support the project has received from both inside and out of the athletic department.
“The efforts of our athletic director, Paul Krebs, associate athletic director Tim Cass, and friends and alumni of UNM have made this possible,” he said. “This is about New Mexico and New Mexico kids, and I am extremely, extremely appreciative of all the efforts.”
This is the beginning for Lobo Field. The initial phase will cost about $2.3 million, but the potential is there for the funds to increase.
“We’ve got the ability to move forward up to $3.6 million on this particular phase of the project,” Krebs said at the groundbreaking. “It’s our job to figure out how to raise the necessary moneys to ultimately build this field in its totality.
“This renovation, this improvement, will be huge in the evolution of our baseball program. And bricks and mortar and all those things are really nice, but what this project really is, in my opinion, is vision and a message to all of New Mexico, young and old, alums and non-alums, that we can be great. We can be as good as anybody in the country. We have to believe, we have to commit, and we have to work hard to get it done.”
The goal is for there to be several phases of renovations that will, in addition to the planned additions in phase one, ultimately include locker rooms, a press box, concession stands, and batting cages.
Birmingham is confident the project will be completed successfully and is thrilled with the potential possibilities these renovations represent.
“Commitment towards excellence by all involved in this project is extremely exciting and motivational for me,” he said.