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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Leaving Sancet Stadium

Juni Nelson / Arizona Daily Wildcat Since the decision to move UA Baseball to High Corbett field the stadium has been vacant.

Named for a man who won 831 games as a head coach at Arizona, Frank Sancet Stadium has been one of the more recognizable collegiate baseball stadiums in America since opening in 1967.

And after housing three national championship teams and dozens of All-Americans, Sancet is the kind of stadium that has a vibe — similar to Yankee Stadium or Notre Dame Stadium — where you can easily envision or feel some of the game’s best players mastering their traits, even though the stadium is empty.

Nonetheless, Arizona baseball is moving on to Hi Corbett Field, from which the City of Tucson approved a letter of intent two weeks ago that asked for the Wildcats’ baseball team to move into the old pro ballpark.

“There’s a lot of emotion involved in this, a lot of unbelievably great memories,” head coach Andy Lopez said.

For the past several years, Sancet Stadium has been empty with the exception often less than a thousand fans who make it out each night to spend a few hours in the old, worn-down stadium that sits on the corner of Sixth Street and National Championship Drive.

As Arizona is realizing, sometimes history isn’t enough to make up for other shortcomings, and this is one of those times. No matter the charm or aura that surrounds Sancet Stadium, people just weren’t showing up, the facilities were falling behind and Arizona wasn’t producing on the field.

It was time for a change.

•The decision•

The possibility of making a move to Hi Corbett Field first seemed feasible in January, when Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne toured the facility, his first time in the stadium. Then the athletic department’s executive team, getting input from each member, discussed the idea.

“(Senior Associate Director of Athletics) John Perrin put some numbers, some early estimations together, and we thought it could have some merit,” Byrne said.

And at the end of May, while Arizona was preparing to head to the College Station Texas regional — where Texas A&M as about to begin a $25 million renovation to its baseball stadium — Byrne and Lopez went on another tour of the facility.

Byrne said he and Lopez had a lengthy discussion over the phone during a weather delay at the regional, ultimately deciding to contact the city to discuss plans to move into Hi Corbett Field.

“This isn’t a decision that we took lightly,” Byrne said. “We needed to make sure that it made a lot of sense in every aspect possible.”

And it’s a decision that couldn’t make more sense. Revenue from slightly raised ticket prices and increased concession income due to the sale of beer — though only for the first five innings of each game — will do more than offset the $250,000-per-year lease that the UA will pay to the city.

Couple that with better facilities that will lead to better recruiting and on-field results, and the decision to leave Sancet Stadium might as well have made itself.

“In terms of a pure baseball facility, I would say it’s in the top-three (on the West Coast),” Lopez said. “From a baseball coach’s perspective … the amenities are for the big-leaguers.”

So when the opportunity presented itself last spring to explore moving the baseball team to what was once a Major League-caliber facility, it was a no-brainer.

Drawing a crowd

Not everyone was in support of moving the Arizona baseball team off campus, but perhaps the biggest reason for making the switch is to lure more people to Arizona baseball games. Crowds the last several years have been almost non-existent save for the occasional game against ASU.

So while a few fans may gripe about the stadium’s off-campus location, the reality is that the beer could bring more revenue and more fans.

But if UA alumnus and frequent front-row fan Kevin Wos was able to move past his initial issues with the move, anyone should be able to.

“I really enjoyed my experiences at Sancet Stadium,” Wos said. “But I also think that Hi Corbett is a really nice stadium and the baseball team should do what’s best for the athletic department.”

That’s the thing that Arizona fans may realize about the move — it’s clearly the best thing for the athletic department. The saying goes that if it’s not broke, then don’t fix it, and Byrne’s decision comes from the basis that something is indeed awry. And he made that decision it as quickly as possible.

He admits that as nice as a renovated Hi Corbett Field may be, tickets aren’t going to sell themselves.

“It’s going to be up to us to do what we can to market the program,” Byrne said. “That’s always been the case … we have a lot of confidence in our fan base that they’ll be here supporting the baseball program going forward.”

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