Chattanooga State already had pre-eminent baseball and softball programs in place. Now the school has an athletic facility to match.
The 7,500-square-foot building's construction was completed late in the nationally ranked Tigers' and Lady Tigers' spring seasons. Some landscaping and tidying up remained to be done this summer, but the multifaceted structure is ready for full operation for the fall seasons.
"We're excited," baseball coach Greg Dennis said. "It's great for both programs, and really the entire athletic department. It's a super setup."
With separate locker rooms decorated in Chattanooga State's royal blue and orange colors, each baseball and softball player has his or her own locker space. Softball coach Beth Keylon-Randolph couldn't be more pleased about that for her players.
"It's just so nice," she said. "Since the inception of our program they've had to change in their cars."
The women will have to take turns using the vanity and mirror.
"It was Beth's idea to put that in," athletic director Steve Jaecks said. "The guys' locker room doesn't have one of those."
Aside from the vanity, the men's and women's sides of the building look similar in design and include restrooms, laundry rooms and showers. There are video rooms with drop-down screens. Both coaches' offices overlook their respective fields.
The entrance in the middle of the building leads directly to a weight room. There also is a trainer's office there.
"There's no other place like this in our conference," Keylon-Randolph said.
Softball player Andie Johnson said she thinks the best thing about the facility is yet to come. She's eagerly awaiting computers that will allow the athletes to have study time there without having to trek to the library.
The fans of the baseball and softball programs will be happy to know the building includes a concession stand and restrooms on the outside. In previous years there was a soft drink trailer at games occasionally. The nearest restrooms were in the gymnasium -- a particularly long walk from the softball field.
Jaecks said the project was part of a campuswide initiative devised by school president Dr. Jim Catanzaro. The baseball/softball building construction and baseball stadium renovations, including the installation of lights, cost a total of $2.017 million.
"Dr. Catanzaro had a great vision, and through his vision we have a really complete athletic facility that will enhance recruitment," Jaecks said. "We've had a great campus. Now we've got a great facility."
Johnson, who played at Soddy-Daisy High School, has one year of eligibility remaining with the Lady Tigers. She believes some from the Chattanooga State programs could move on to NCAA Division I schools and not have it as good as they do now.
"I've seen a few D-I schools that have facilities like that," Johnson said. "This one's definitely right up there. It'll make recruits feel like they're already in a D-I school before they ever step on the field."
Now the programs -- the softball team ended up ranked No. 10 and the baseball team ranked No. 24 in the final NJCAA Division I final polls last spring -- must continue to step up to the plate, so to speak.
"It shows it's a college that wants to put forth programs that are nationally competitive," Dennis said. "You don't do this to kind of make your programs OK."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or email@example.com.