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It may have been overcast and drizzling this afternoon in Morgantown, but that couldn’t keep the smile off the face of West Virginia University baseball coach Randy Mazey and all of those who enjoy baseball throughout the region.
That’s because ground has been broken on a new ballpark at the University Town Centre. The official groundbreaking ceremony, organized by CONSOL Energy, Inc., brought together a very large contingent of state and local dignitaries.
Among those making brief remarks included local developers John Lynch and Jason Donahue, West Virginia University president Jim Clements and director of athletics Oliver Luck, West Virginia Speaker of the House Tim Miley, Senate President Jeff Kessler, state Senators Roman Prezioso and Bob Beach and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Jason Pizatella.
Tomblin was unable to attend today because of a prior commitment.
“I would like to thank all of our state representatives. We appreciate all of the work you have done this past session to make this a reality,” said Luck. “We took it into extra innings, if you remember, but you kept your calm, stayed steady at the plate and knocked it out of the park so we appreciate that every much.”
Luck was, of course, referencing the special legislative session that was needed to work out the final details on the new ballpark and surrounding development.
“Athletic director Luck referred to it as ‘extra innings’ but I refer to it as a very torturous process in the House of Delegates,” Miley joked. “But at the end of the day we got it done.
“In West Virginia we’re such a small state and given our population base we cannot afford to have different cities, different counties and different regions work as competitors,” Miley said. “We have to work as partners because when one part of our state succeeds, it will, indeed, benefit the rest of our state.”
Miley concluded, “My only selfishness is that Mon County is so successful that Pennsylvania also benefits from this. I just wish Mon County was a little bit further south so the circle of influence and success would only be in West Virginia.”
Beach pointed toward the lasting economic impact this development will have on the entire region.
“This is just the beginning of phase three (of the University Town Centre development),” noted Beach. “Construction jobs in phase three will consist of 1,500 jobs and permanent jobs here in phase three will be an additional 1,100 jobs. That’s remarkable numbers when you think about it.”
Also making remarks were local officials Eldon Callen of the Monongalia County Commission and Granville mayor Patty Lewis.
“President Kessler and Speaker Miley, you had no doubt, well, I’ll tell you I had doubts all the way through this,” said Callen to laughter. “We thank you for what the state has done.”
The ballpark is the culmination of nearly two years of planning by Donahue, Luck and Beach that will involve much more than just a new baseball stadium. Above the new ballpark will be a brand new West Virginia University outpatient hospital and adjacent to that will be several new developments leading into a new interchange to I-79.
The entire project has the potential to completely transform the western part of Monongalia County.
Preliminary earthwork has already started on the new ballpark, which is estimated to cost approximately $16 million upon completion. Officials are hopeful it can be completed in time for the 2015 West Virginia University baseball season.