FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
IOWA CITY, Iowa – - Carver-Hawkeye Arena isn’t the only facility on Hawkins Drive in Iowa City getting a facelift. After years of playing on the same surface, Duane Banks Field and the Iowa baseball program is in the process of getting a new field.
For the first time since the field was laid down three decades ago, the entire playing surface is being refurbished. According to Head Coach Jack Dahm, about 10-12 years ago the infield was re-sodded and a magic mix dirt was installed. But, as far as revamping the entire field, this is the first time the field has undergone a major facelift.
Not only is a new state-of-the-art playing surface being installed, but Dahm said there will be a couple other minor changes to the field.
“We are very excited that the project is moving right along,” said Dahm. “The field is going to look a little different than in the past. We are moving home plate five feet forward to help with the grading, the drainage and the slopes. They are also lowering the field about one foot. It’s going to look a little different, but I don’t know if the fans will be able to notice the difference. We are really looking forward to it.”
Dahm said even though home plate is being moved forward five feet, the dimensions down the left and right field lines will only shrink by about one foot. The current dimensions are 330 down the lines, 375 to the alleys and 400 to center.
“Once the project is complete, it will be 395 to center and a little shorter than 375 to the alleys,” said Dahm. “In the past, our field probably played bigger than any other field in the Big Ten and possibly college baseball.”
Dahm went on to say that the change in dimensions is providing a little more room in foul territory. The change is more about the slope and drainage than making the field smaller.
“I’m a big believer in big fields, but I thought now was the time to move ahead with the project,” said Dahm.
The project began Oct. 1 and with the nice weather that Iowa City has enjoyed the past two weeks has been helpful. The crew has been able to get a majority of the grading done with no delays. The rest of the schedule looks like this — today, the crew is locating home plate, getting the exact dimensions of the field. Later this week, they are installing the irrigation system, which will probably take three-four days. Once that is complete, they will start sodding the Kentucky Bluegrass, weather permitting. It will probably be the end of October before the project is complete.
Dahm is also excited about improvements in another area.
“Not only are they redoing the field, but we are also getting new batting cages with new turf down the left field line. Duane Banks Field will look a little different when everyone shows up next spring.”
Senior third baseman Zach McCool, who was a third team all-Big Ten honoree a year ago, is extremely thankful for the new surface.
“During the past year our field started to get bacteria in the grass, which caused our field to have many bare spots and rough spots,” McCool said. “I’m excited to get a new playing surface that will allow us to get true hops in the field and let the ball stay down on the `pro’ style grass. This also gives us the opportunity to understand and feel how `pro’ players get to play on an everyday bases. I am excited that the University is supporting its baseball team as they are every team on campus, which we are very appreciative for.”
Since the project has started the Hawkeyes have been displaced the last couple weeks of fall practice. The team practiced three times a week at Solon High School and twice inside “the football bubble” on campus.
“I was very pleased with our approach when we left campus,” said Dahm. “We went out there and got a lot accomplished. We didn’t do much drill work, more intra-squad and team defensive work. Because of class conflicts, Tuesdays and Thursdays we worked out in the bubble for an hour. Unfortunately, those days we had 70-80 degree weather outside and we were practicing inside, which wasn’t ideal. Our guys gave a great effort and we were able to get better even though we didn’t have the luxury of practicing at Duane Banks Field.”
Coach Dahm praised his team’s effort and improvement during the fall practice season. The Hawkeyes have a large number of returning lettermen and starters from last year’s squad that won 11 of its last 14 contests and advanced to the Big Ten Tournament championship game. Additionally, Iowa adds a new class of talented student-athletes.
“I think the fall months have been very positive for us,” said Dahm. “We progressed and got better with each practice. Our effort and energy level was good this fall. Our veterans are excited about the talent level of our new guys. Every player came back better after summer baseball and that is key to us building on last year’s success. There’s a lot of excitement around the program right now.”