The University of San Diego’s athletics program has enjoyed a significant measure of success, which includes being the recipient of four consecutive West Coast Conference Commissioner’s Cup awards for overall athletics excellence.
On Jan. 28, USD President Mary E. Lyons, PhD, Executive Director of Athletics Ky Snyder and USD Board of Trustees Chairman Ron Fowler publicly addressed the start of a new quest for athletics excellence.
Called the Drive for Torero Success, this $30 million USD campaign involves a master plan to renovate the USD baseball facility, construct a golf/softball/club sports facility, renovating the Skip and Cindy Hogan Tennis Center and providing operational and scholarship endowments.
The campaign enjoyed a rousing start when Snyder stated that Phase 1 would be a baseball stadium renovation. Beginning in February 2013, USD Baseball Coach Rich Hill’s Toreros will play home games in the renamed Fowler Park. Ron and Alexis Fowler were recognized at Saturday’s announcement for their generous matching campaign gift.
“There’s an opportunity for us to jump this to a level of excellence that, in my mind, represents what the campus represents,” Snyder said. “We’ve been a little behind what the campus represents. We started with a strategic plan of getting a real solid athletics program that focuses on winning conference championships while developing exceptional graduates. This is that next step toward excellence.”
The ballpark’s renovation includes an entry plaza that maintains the consistency of the university’s 16th century Spanish Renaissance architecture theme campuswide. Fowler Park will have lights for night games, a state-of-the-art clubhouse, office spaces, and suites and, most importantly, expanded seating. There will be 1,700 permanent seats, but there’s space for 3,000 so Fowler Park can host NCAA Regional and Super Regional tournaments. Construction on Fowler Park is scheduled to start soon after USD’s final 2012 home game on May 13.
Cunningham Stadium, as it is currently named in honor of USD Hall of Fame Baseball Coach John Cunningham, will become Cunningham Field at Fowler Park. The field will be reconstructed and rotated a few degrees, Snyder said, putting its dimensions on par with NCAA College World Series’ home venue, TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
“I’m thrilled,” said Cunningham, now in his 50th year associated with USD athletics. “I’m 100 percent behind what’s going on here. I want our alumni to get involved, too. It’s going to be one of the best places to watch a game when it’s done.”
Hill, who begins his 14th season as baseball coach this month and has five WCC titles and six NCAA regional appearances to his credit, is very appreciative, knowing this news significantly raises his program’s visibility.
“It means everything,” Hill said. “Ky Snyder has been awesome; he deserves a lot of credit. This would not have happened without Ky being in a leadership role. For an athletic director to put baseball as a priority is something special. That doesn’t happen at many universities.”
The Fowler Park announcement was greeted with enthusiasm from current Baltimore Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz, a three-year Torero standout (2006-08) and the program’s highest-ever selection in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft — fourth overall in June 2008.
“I’m super jealous,” said Matusz, who was in San Diego last weekend for USD’s baseball alumni game. “But I’m really excited for the Torero players coming up who will get to play there,” he said.
Fowler, a longtime supporter of many San Diego sports entities, is excited for USD’s sports future.
“This university is one of the most wonderful places I’ve ever had the opportunity to be associated with,” he said. “Alexis and I really feel blessed to be able to put out this challenge grant; and to me, this is Phase I of getting the facilities up to meet the quality of the athletics program at USD.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
USD Athletics contributed to this report.