UK baseball has been through years of financial hardship and they are finally starting to catch back up. Derek Terry, a great writer and friend of mine, exposed the issues UK baseball has faced with support from their university and fan base. Kentucky is still the only team in the SEC without an appearance in a super regional or a College World Series, and they desperately want to change the culture of success. Derek spoke with former head coach Keith Madison regarding the program’s troublesome financial past,
In order to keep up with the rest of the conference, Madison intended to break renovations down into three different plans. He first wanted to put in permanent seating so the field would have more of a stadium feel. This phase also included a new, bigger press box at the ballpark.
When Madison went to discuss the plans with then-athletic director Cliff Hagan, he was met with a surprising answer.
“I told him, ‘We’re getting absolutely smoked by our competition and we’re already the northernmost school in the league, our weather’s not as good as the southern schools. We didn’t have a full allotment of assistant coaches like the other schools to do.
“They basically said, you want it, go out and raise money,” Madison said. “You have to do it yourself.”
So he did. Madison and his staff were able to raise $250,000 for the installation of lights in 1987 and later raised $520,000 for renovations that refurbished the stadium in 1990.
He would later raise $2.5 million for the renovations in 2002. The stadium added 2,000 chairback seats, a new press box and television booth and two luxury skyboxes.
Madison did almost all of the fundraising to improve the stadium to its current state. He acknowledges that it was tough to receive little financial support from the athletic department.
“I’d like to tell you that it didn’t bother me but there were times it did bother me,” Madison said. “But I wanted so badly to help Kentucky get to the next level in baseball that I just put my nose to the grindstone and kept going. It’s one of those things where you can either get bitter or you can get better. I chose to try to get better.”
UK seems poised to get the baseball program turned around, and Mitch Barnhart realizes the facilities desperately need to be improved for that to happen. Kentucky has projected that construction for the baseball stadium should begin sometime in 2017, with a new stadium being built over by the softball and soccer complex. According to Mitch Barnhart it will be a state-of-the-art facility that stacks up with other stadiums in the SEC, and it will seat 2,500 people for a price range of $30-40 million dollars.