Luck: Bridgeport stadium "option" for Big 12/WVU Baseball

By Jeff Toquinto on April 16, 2012

Professional Minor League baseball may not be the only sport coming to Bridgeport in the near future. On Sunday, West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck confirmed that there have been discussions about the Mountaineers using the new Minor League stadium being built at Charles Pointe by the ownership group of the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things for home games, particularly those involving Big 12 opponents.

“It’s something Jamie Corton and I have talked about for a while,” Luck said. “There are clearly some pluses to it.”

Corton is the managing partner of Genesis Partners, the massive planned development in the heart of Bridgeport. He could not be reached for comment, but this story will be updated in the event he does contact Connect-Bridgeport.

The ownership group from the Washington Wild Things has agreed to have a separate team compete in Bridgeport. The plan will likely see a 3,000 to 5,000 seat stadium constructed in a manner that can be expanded for up to 3,500 additional seats, Genesis officials said during a recent meeting. The cost for the stadium is estimated to run as high as $20 million, but competition isn't expected until 2014.

How does that stack up with Hawley Field, which has been in operation since 1971? According to Luck, there is no comparison.

“Our facility right now, Hawley Field in Morgantown, clearly is not in very good shape,” Luck said. “We’ve got a real challenge in front of us as we go into an excellent baseball conference. Teams like Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma – teams that are solid on a regular basis coming here – play in some cases in facilities that seat 8, 9, or 10,000 people.”

Hawley Field can’t compare. It seats, on a good day Luck said, 1,500.

The problem with that is that while WVU baseball hasn’t been selling out games at the gate, the Big 12 teams actually have decent size contingents that travel regularly to watch their teams play. Plus, there’s the added factor of college baseball fans from other parts of the state making the trip to Morgantown to see some of the Big 12’s perennial powerhouse programs.

“I happened to visit Stanford to visit my kids in school, and I have two kids there,” Luck said. “Stanford was battling Rice from the Big 12 (Rice competes in Conferense USA in baseball, but is a national power), which is a smaller school, but they probably had 500 or more fans that traveled to that game. Granted, they were two top five teams battling it out with numerous future draft picks playing, but it may surprise some folks just how well Big 12 baseball travels.”

In other words, Hawley Field may not be able to handle the crowds that will be coming into town. A quick fix isn’t available and a short term one with construction at a Morgantown location with WVU leading the way would be a multi-million dollar investment on the self-sustained athletic department. There has been talk about a possible minor league presence in Morgantown (not the Frontier League, which is looking at Parkersburg for its next team), but nothing, unless it's been completely kept under wraps from the media and public, is as far along as this Charles Pointe option.

“Will it happen? I’ll say it's an option on the table that we’re looking at,” Luck said. “I have no doubt Jamie and his folks will be involved in building a first-class facility and that makes this attractive.”

Not only that, but Big 12 teams will also likely be using North Central West Virginia Regional Airport for flights. Many of those teams could possibly stay in the Bridgeport/Clarksburg area making trips for the visiting teams extremely convenient.