Local Sports, Sports, University

Fundraising underway for new baseball, softball stadiums at University High

MORGANTOWN — Spring sports at University High have lived a nomadic life since the school’s opening in 1925, as they’ve traveled the county in search of venues.

If a current parent-led fundraiser has anything to say, those days are almost over.

Earlier this month, the Monongalia County Board of Education gave its approval for this parent committee to begin officially fundraising for a new UHS Sports Complex that will house the Hawks’ baseball and softball programs.

The complex will be named after former UHS standout and retired Major League Baseball player Jedd Gyorko.

“Having my alma mater’s baseball fields named after me is truly an honor,” Gyorko said in a statement. “I look forward to assisting with this project and soon watching UHS host games on their home field.”

Currently the Hawks play baseball and softball games at Mylan Park. UHS shares those facilities – two baseball fields and two softball fields — with Morgantown High School and sometimes Trinity Christian.
The roughly 30-minute travel time across town has not only been a nuisance but an obvious safety concern for parents and administrators.

“You have to worry about safety with having an off-site facility,” Monongalia County School Superintendent Eddie Campbell said. “Mylan Park is wonderful, there’s no discounting that and it’s been a great partnership.”

Campbell said that partnership will continue for the foreseeable future, even with the possibility of new fields at UHS, as Morgantown High will still need to use Mylan Park for home contests and practices. The proposed facility will be located northwest of the UHS school building on the hill known as Dotson Tipple. The softball and baseball fields will be WVSSAC compliant and include concessions, restrooms, stands and press boxes for each field.

Both fields will have lights and have an artificial turf playing surface, which will allow contests and practices to be held during inclement weather.

“This would be huge,” UHS baseball coach Brad Comport said. “Having the availability to be able to walk over and practice right after school, it could really transform our practice capabilities. As of now, we lose 30 minutes of practice time just getting to our field. It would just make life so much easier in general.”

According to Greg Metheny, who is a member of the 10-person committee, cost to complete the project is going to be between $5 million and $5.5 million. Metheny said he is hopeful that groundbreaking for this new complex will begin in the fall of 2023 with first games played in spring of 2024.

“It would really take a lot of pressure off us,” UHS softball coach Mindy Parks said. “We could actually host tournaments and have a little more price in having a facility at our school. I think having banners and everything about your program would be an amazing showcase for our program and our school.”

Committee co-chair Heidi Metheny said there was tons of planning that went into the location for these fields. The fields will not interfere with the current UHS cross-country course and while the UHS marching band does practice at this location, there have already been accommodations made for the band as well.

“The design is done to incorporate both a future tennis court site and it is not going to impede the cross-country course,” Greg Metheny said. “Actually it should enhance viewing for the cross-country course and provide seating as well.”

The cost of the project is going to be met by fundraising and also the group is hopeful that the AMLER (Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization) program can also offset some of the cost. Heidi Matheny said the group has applied for a grant through AMLER.

“This is really exciting for the community,” Heidi Matheny said. “We can envision other organizations in the community using this facility.”

UHS athletic director Jeff Bailey said he has been impressed with the community group that has taken charge of this fundraiser.

“This can definitely be a place for our school and community to be proud of,” Bailey said. “We are very excited about the initiative that this parent group has taken to help expand the athletic facilities.”

The committee held its first official fundraiser on Friday, Sept. 30 during the UHS home football game. Greg Metheny said some funds have already been raised and Gyorko and his family have also said they will donate and be involved with the fundraising for this project moving forward.

Anyone who would like to donate, host a fundraiser or volunteer are welcome to visit the website www.uhsportscomplex.com.

Story by Eric Herter