Gadsden State breaks ground on baseball/softball complex

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Photo: An official groundbreaking was held Tuesday, April 2 for the new baseball/softball complex at Gadsden State’s Wallace Drive Campus in the Gadsden Sports Complex. Pictured, from left: Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees member and local businessman Tim McCartney, GSCC baseball player Aiden Bee, GSCC athletic director/head baseball coach Blake Lewis, City of Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford, GSCC President Dr. Kathy Murphy, GSCC head softball coach Ryan Clark, GSCC softball player Chloe Gattis. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

In approximately 10 months, the Gadsden State baseball and softball teams will have a state-of-the-art facility at their disposal.
On Tuesday, April 2, the college broke ground on a $10.1 million-dollar complex that is expected to be completed in early 2025.
Gadsden State disbanded the baseball and softball programs in 2011 and 2016, respectively. GSCC President Dr. Kathy Murphy announced the resumption of the two programs in April of 2022.
“When I came here in January of 2021, I had many conversations with local superintendents and mayors, during which I asked them about the first thing we needed to do for this college,” said Murphy. “The first piece out of each of those groups was that we needed to re-start our athletic programs. So what a fun thing it is today that we’re breaking ground to put our softball and baseball stadiums in place.”
Murphy acknowledged that the college’s athletic programs are a “tremendous tool” in boosting enrollment.
“As we recruit athletes, they bring friends from their high schools with them. We know that students sometimes choose a college not necessarily totally based on academics, and athletics can play a critical role in that area. We believe that expanding our sports programs allows us to not only promote school spirit and unity but serve our community as well.”
According to Murphy, the project will be funded by a bond issue worth $20 million, which was approved by the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees in November.
The remainder of the funds will go towards the renovation of Wallace Hall and the enhancement of the school’s arts program.
“So lots of wonderful things are happening here at Gadsden State, and those things are only happening because of the local leaders, many of whom are here today,” said Murphy.
The City of Gadsden committed to picking up a portion of the tab for new parking lots and a pedestrian bridge that spans 135 feet over the existing culvert to connect a remote parking lot.
Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford said he values the relationship with Gadsden State and the commitment to athletics and academic excellence.
“This is not just about Gadsden; this facility is about the community,” he said. “This is about all five counties that Gadsden State serves. This is phenomenal for all of us. I grew up about three blocks from here, so this college is near and dear to my heart. When you hear the sounds of machinery and see smoke around here, that’s the sound and the smell of progress.”
Highlights of the new complex include entry concourse between field; full synthetic fields and bullpens; LED lighting systems; new scoreboards; home dugouts that include locker rooms and restrooms for players and coaches; a pedestrian bridge; visitor dugouts with large field storage rooms; concession stand to accommodate both fields; multi-stall restrooms for spectators; elevated bleachers with 150 seating capacity; press boxes; and a covered hitting facility with three synthetic turf hitting/pitching lanes.
“I love the cooperation we are seeing between the City of Gadsden and Gadsden State,” said Tim McCartney, a local businessman and member of the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees. “I am proud that I voted in favor of the bond issue. We want to do everything we can to make sure this community and this college continue to grow and prosper.”
Blake Lewis, who was hired as the college’s athletic director and head baseball coach in June of 2022, was thankful to those making the dream of having a state-of-the-art complex a reality.
“Today marks a wonderful occasion, not only for the athletic department but for the entire Gadsden State community,” he said. “Beyond the athletic arena, this complex will serve as a gathering place for our community, a place where families can come together to cheer on their loved ones, where friendships are forged and where memories are to be made. This complex will be a beacon of pride for Gadsden State and a testament to our dedication to fostering a vibrant and inclusive campus culture.
“As we break ground today, let us not only celebrate the physical construction of this complex but also the countless opportunities it will provide for generations to come. May it be a place where dreams are realized, aspirations are achieved and bonds of friendship are forged.”
Ryan Clark was named the school’s head softball coach in August of 2023.
“I always point out to the athletes who come here for a visit of what a great thing it is for the president, athletic director and the city’s mayor to be all pointed in the same direction,” he said. “And today proves that. I truly believe that this complex will provide a game-day experience that will be one of the best in the country. It’s something that our student-athletes, our school and our community deserve. I’m proud to be the softball coach at Gadsden State, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Aidan Bee spoke on behalf of the Gadsden State baseball team.
“I want to thank everyone who has played a role in bringing this complex to Gadsden State. It represents a significant investment in our program and in our future. It shows a commitment to excellence and a belief that athletics is a vital part of the college experience.”
Chloe Gattis represented the GSCC softball team, on which she plays catcher.
“I’m beyond excited about our new baseball/softball complex. It’s not just about the new state-of-the-art facilities. It’s about what it means for our entire student body. This complex isn’t just a place to play; it’s a hub for student life. Whether you’re a player, a fan or just someone looking for an electric atmosphere, this complex will have something for everyone. We can’t wait to take the field!”
Lathan Architects is the architect company for the project. Kyser Construction is the contractor.
Gadsden State Public Relations and Marketing Director Jackie Brehm Edmondson contributed to this article.

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