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College softball: USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium past, present and future

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Since last year's Women's College World Series, a new two-story pressbox has been built at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. The difference can be seen outside the stadium with a new facade and inside the stadium with no overhang covering hundreds of seats behind home plate. [CHRIS LANDSBERGER/THE OKLAHOMAN]
Since last year's Women's College World Series, a new two-story pressbox has been built at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. The difference can be seen outside the stadium with a new facade and inside the stadium with no overhang covering hundreds of seats behind home plate. [CHRIS LANDSBERGER/THE OKLAHOMAN]

THE PAST: WHAT’S BEEN

USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium is undergoing big changes, but this isn’t the first time that upgrades have come to the home of the Women’s College World Series. Here’s a timeline of the stadium’s history:

1985: Groundbreaking for ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

1987: Stadium opens with 2,000 permanent seats.

2002: Permanent seating expanded to 5,000.

2011: Field house with team meeting space built beyond left-field fence.

2014: Dugouts updated, and locker rooms and training rooms added under the stadium.

2015: Concessions and a hospitality suite added on the main concourse.

2018: Outdoor batting cages and bullpens added for visiting and home teams.

THE PRESENT: WHAT’S NEW

Even though the current run of renovations at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium have been ongoing for several years, the changes fans will soon see are the most significant outward alterations to the stadium thus far.

The old pressbox was bulldozed to make way for a new structure. Now stands a two-story pressbox. The second level is dedicated almost solely to ESPN with a broadcast booth as well as an area where on-air talent can demonstrate skills in front of a green screen. Media will also have expanded areas under the stadium, including an interview room and work room.

While the pressbox is bigger, one part of the old structure is noticeably absent. The overhang that used to shade hundreds of seats behind home plate is gone, though more areas of the concourse will be shaded for fans seeking a respite from the sun.

Another big change associated with the new pressbox is the stadium entrance. There are new gates, box offices and landscaping.

Most stadium improvements in this round of renovations focus on the media, but one enhancement fans will notice is an additional big screen. Because fans in the outfield cannot see the screen behind them on the scoreboard, a 17-by-10-foot screen is being added above the seating area on the first-base side. It should give fans in the outfield bleachers a view of replays and videos.

THE FUTURE: WHAT’S LEFT

Only one phase of the current renovations remains – but it will be the biggest of them all.

An upper deck will be built before the 2020 Women’s College World Series, adding 4,000 permanent seats and expanding the capacity to 9,000. With the temporary outfield bleachers brought in for the WCWS, seating for that event will exceed 12,000.

Fans who attend the WCWS this year can get an idea of where the new deck will be. Some of the steel beams that will hold the decks have already been placed near the new pressbox. The beams closer to the field show the slope of the front section of the upper deck, which will be separated from a back section by a walkway. The beams farther back represent the highest point of the new construction.

Once the upper deck is added, it will keep the WCWS in Oklahoma City for years to come.

In 2013, the city sought a long-term deal with the NCAA for WCWS, but the NCAA wanted stadium improvements in return. Improvements for players were done first, followed by changes for the media and the fans that will be done next year. That will trigger a contract keeping the WCWS in OKC through 2035.

Jenni Carlson, Columnist

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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