LA VERNE – The Leopards are finally home.
After years-long wait, Campus West, the University of La Verne’s newest athletic facility, had its grand opening Tuesday, with administration, alumni, faculty and student-athletes in attendance.
With the prominent Foothills serving as its backdrop, the facility, a nearly $20 million project, serves as the new home to the Leopard baseball and softball teams and also houses a recreational field open to student use.
“There’s no place like home, and we’re home today,” La Verne athletics director Julie Kline said. “Today is a historical day for Leopard Athletics, especially the softball and baseball programs. The opportunity to bring student-athletes home is something we have been working towards for years, and it doesn’t happen without the support of the Board of Trustees, President Lieberman and Provost Jonathan Reed.”
To officially christen Campus West, University President Devorah Lieberman threw out a ceremonial first pitch for the softball field and Luis Faura, chairman of the Boards of Trustees, threw the first pitch for the baseball field.
The softball team has been without a home field since 1999 and has played at Wheeler Park, while the baseball team has only been removed from its home for two years. The team played at Ben Hines Field, which was on the main campus, until the conclusion of the 2011 season and has played at Mt. San Antonio College, Rio Hondo College and Azusa Pacific University since.
“It’s a beautiful facility, and these ladies deserve it,” head softball coach Julie Smith said. “From seeing the foundation go in and the light poles go up and the netting, to the pitching mound and the bases, it was like reality hit.”
Two hundred and eighty-six days after the June 26, 2013 ground breaking ceremony, head baseball coach Scott Winterburn is still waiting on the moments before the first game to create his memories and feelings about it.
“I want to play the first game here,” Winterburn said. “Because you won’t know the intimacies of it until you play here. You won’t know how the wind blows, or how the sun goes down, or anything until you play here.”
Senior second baseman George Hanna shared the same sentiment. “Once we get a practice or a game, then it’s going to feel real. It’s not ours yet,” Hanna said.
Additionally, the facility has a press box and batting cages at each field, as well as locker rooms for home and away teams for both sports, all of which rises to the highest standards of quality.
“Just the infrastructure of the facility is so exciting, the batting cages, the press box, the dugouts, the little things,” Winterburn said. “There’s room to keep growing and that’s important.”
“I like the batting cages, those are first class, and the scoreboard and the logo in center field,” Smith said. “It feeds every need and more.”
To unveil the University’s newest addition, a grand opening ceremony was held on the softball infield that included words from President Lieberman, Kline, Faura and Don Kendrick, mayor of La Verne.
Jimmy Paschal, former athletic director, volleyball, tennis, and track and field coach at La Verne, finished things off with a speech commemorating Ben Hines and Owen Wright before congratulating them with awards for their dedication to La Verne Athletics. Hines and Wright both served as head baseball coach at La Verne: Hines from 1961 to 1980 and Wright from 1983 to 1998.
Both teams can potentially play at Campus West as soon as this weekend: softball is set for a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friday against Chapman, and baseball has a doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday against Occidental.