The next time baseball is played in East Tennessee State University’s Thomas Stadium, spectators will have seats to watch from and a nearby parking lot for their cars.
That is the hope anyway, said Mike White, ETSU assistant athletic director for communications.
The seating for fans of Bucs baseball has been installed in the stadium, located across from the main campus near the intersection with University Parkway and West State of Franklin Road. The turf has been down since February. The team opened this past season at the field, but fans had to watch from the third base line and park on campus and be shuttled to the stadium. A decision about installing seating along the third base line is being discussed now.
The current seating available behind home plate allows approximately 400 fans a good view of games.
“There has been a little discussion of what that would take to get it (seating capacity) over 1,000 people,” White said.
The parking lot and accompanying lighting is the next part of the project. That should be finished by late this month or early August.
“So basically the first phase is literally days from being finished,” White said.
Construction on the stadium began in spring 2010 with site preparation. A large amount of rock was discovered that had to be removed. This took time and slowed the project.
The weather also played a part in delaying the project. Construction was likely further delayed when games began this spring, White said.
The stadium was named in honor of the Gerald Thomas family and Thomas Construction Co. for their donation to the stadium.
White said it would be many more years before the facility is completely finished with a field house, offices, locker rooms and other amenities, possibly including retail space. All this is planned in subsequent phases.
This first phase of the stadium that is nearly complete cost about $4.2 million. General Shale Brick provided an in-kind gift of all the brick needed for the stadium. Additionally, the preparation of the site was done for free and was worth about $500,000.