The 2015 season marks the Ole Miss Rebels’ 27th year of calling the friendly confines of Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field home.
Construction of the $3.75 million stadium was completed in October, 1988, while landscaping and touch-up work was finished through the course of the 1989 season and through the summer months.
The stadium’s first action saw the Rebels sweep a doubleheader from Cumberland University on a bitter cold day, February 19, 1989. Still, a crowd of 1,016 braved the elements to be a part of that historic day in the school’s baseball history.
Ole Miss officially dedicated its new home on April 22, 1989, with a ceremony attended by many dignitaries, including Hall of Famer Whitey Ford and Ole Miss great Archie Manning. A sellout crowd of 2,967 attended and watched the Rebels down Kentucky, 4-3.
The ballpark has grown and undergone changes since it’s original opening date, including an $18 million renovation project prior to the 2009 season.
A seating area was added beyond the right field fence in 1993, where hundreds of students have become accustomed to spending their sunny spring afternoons at the ballpark.
The outfield area has since undergone another transformation as a left field and right field lounge area was constructed during the 2000 season. The area, which is complete with picnic tables and barbecue stands was expanded again prior to the 2007 season.
In the fall of 2003, the Charles M. Merkel Hitting Complex, a 6,800-square-foot indoor hitting facility, was added to the ballpark, and the indoor batting tunnel underneath the first base stands has become an indoor pitching area.
Beginning with the 2006 season, the park received a new scoreboard which contains a large video board capable of showing highlights and replays throughout the course of the game. Then completed in front of the stadium was a new office suite to house the Rebel baseball coaching staff and support staff for the program.
The 2009 renovations to O-U Stadium added a new club suite level as well as a new press box down the third base line. The grandstands were also extended down both baselines with new box seats and grandstand seating.
On the third base side of the stadium, 2009 brought the Rebels a new locker room and lounge, as well as a brand new team room with theater style seating and audio-visual equipment. Also included was a new training room.
Prior to the 2011 season, the Rebels installed a new HD video board and scoreboard to replace the one put in place for the 2006 season.
University of Mississippi student-athletes have always strived to be champions. The Michael S. Starnes Athletic Training Center has made their goals a little easier to obtain.
Starnes, the building’s benefactor, donated $1 million toward the facility. A 1968 Ole Miss graduate, Starnes is president of Tennessee California Express, Inc., a transportation company.
The Training Center stands just north of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and the $2.5 million project was a unique combination of renovation and construction. The former Doc Knight Field House was transformed into a modern facility. The first floor houses an expanded, state-of-the-art training room, locker room, coaches dressing room, equipment room, laundry area and seven meeting rooms. The top floor contains another meeting room and a large theater-style team meeting room.
The training area is two and one half times larger than before. It has four offices for the athletic training staff, room for at least 13 treatment tables, six taping stations and countless rehabilitation equipment. It also contains a wet room with a whirlpool. This translates to improved care and injury prevention for Rebel student-athletes.
The facility extends to the east into a similar structure which holds a massive weight room, a lobby, conference room and offices on the ground level.
Dr. Jerry Hollingsworth, an Ole Miss alumnus and general practitioner in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., joined forces with former Rebel quarterback Archie Manning to establish a recruitment/ memorabilia center.
Hollingsworth/Manning Hall, located on the second level, provides a comfortable setting for coaches to talk with potential student-athletes. It is also a unique showcase of Ole Miss sports trophies, photos and memorabilia displayed in a museum-like atmosphere. A portion of Hollingsworth’s $2 million gift to the University went toward the Hall.
The weight room in the Starnes Center is a dramatic improvement from the past. What was once a 3,100-square-foot room full of dumb bells and free weights has been converted into an unparalleled 10,000-square-foot weight training auditorium.
The renovation of the Doc Knight Field House included preserving the stone entryway. The entrance was removed and stored and was reattached to the new addition on the north side.
Since May 2007, Ole Miss student-athletes have benefitted tremendously from their first-class on-campus learning environment – the FedEx Student-Athlete Academic Support Center.
FedEx Corporation announced on April 14, 2005, a $2.5 million gift over five years to the University of Mississippi to create such an elite academic support center for student-athletes.
The center provides state-of-the-art computer facilities and space for study halls and tutoring for men and women student-athletes, as well as additional classrooms for all students.
“FedEx has always been a strong supporter of educational initiatives at all levels,” said Mike Glenn, executive vice president of marketing development and corporate communications. “This contribution to the University of Mississippi is an extension of our commitment to helping improve the academic resources available to students, and student-athletes in particular.”
Glenn said FedEx and Ole Miss are committed to providing a strong academic foundation to enable students to reach their full potential.
“The FedEx Center is one of the best academic facilities in college athletics,” said Athletics Director Ross Bjork. “It is the lifeblood of our student-athlete development and the chief recruiting tool for Ole Miss Athletics. Students come first in everything we do, and we cannot thank FedEx enough for their leadership and commitment.”
The money was used to renovate a portion of the Starnes Athletic Center—which formerly housed football locker rooms, a weight room and training facilities—next to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on All-American Drive. The 22,500-square-foot building now houses the Office of Student-Athlete Academic Support, including offices, conference rooms, 20 large and small group tutoring rooms, a large study area, a multi-media classroom, computer lab and 150-seat high-tech auditorium. The project was completed in May 2007 with an approximate cost of $5 million.
In accepting the FedEx gift, university officials said the new center provides an important link in the university’s goal to compete at the highest level in every aspect of its intercollegiate programs.
“American public universities are the best in the world largely because of the generosity of American corporations,” said then-UM Chancellor Robert Khayat. “FedEx sets the standard for philanthropy by which others are measured. In this case, Ole Miss student-athletes are the primary beneficiaries, but all our students will benefit and, as a result, our entire state benefits.”
In addition to its latest gift to the University, FedEx supports several endowed scholarship programs, the Whitten Chair in Law, the Lott Leadership Institute, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and William Faulkner’s historic home, Rowan Oak.