Strike Three On Proposed Ballpark - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

01/29/08 - Nacogdoches

Strike Three On Proposed Ballpark

by Donna McCollum

The ballpark decision was the one item most people were waiting to hear at the Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents meeting. SFA President, Dr. Baker Patillo said, " I come to you today to tell you that I simply don't believe that this project can go further. At this time we cannot build a stadium."

The ballpark idea was loved by some. Hated by others. The proposed centralized location off University Drive was convenient, but costly to develop. Then environmentalists preferred woods, over baseball diamonds. A lot of money was given toward the 25% private donation requirement for the $14-million project. Bo Pilgrim pledged $1 million. In exchange the ballpark would have carried his name. Others followed with pledges or cash. In the end it wasn't enough. Patillo explained, " We have $1,941,200 pledged as of today. Actual cash on hand is $1,372,255. So I have to look at those numbers. We have not reached the 25%."

Then there was Patillo's other worry. " I have had to worry with and try to work with how do we pay for the other 75% that we would have to bond for over the next 20 years."

Reaction came swiftly to Patillo's announcement. As a body, the faculty always opposed the project. Faculty president, Dr. Marc Guidry said before the board, " I hear what Dr. Patillo says and the time is not right as he said for a stadium right now, but I think there are many faculty that support athletics and support the baseball team. "

The regents support Patillo and his decision. Board chair, Valerie Ertz said, " We thought the community would come forth a little bit more and be more participant in that and we're hoping in the future it may happen."   But disappointment was evident. Regent and Nacogdoches resident Joe Max Green appeared pensive as Patillo announced his decision. Afterwards Green said, " This would be a tremendous economic boom to the community, Nacogdoches, to SFA. I think this would be an awesome thing. "

Reaction in the same vein came from the SFA Student Body President Kent Willis. " I think it is a shame we are not able to come up with the money to build a baseball field. It's sad we can't come up with the money. The blame can't be placed on one place. "

One parent, Terry Lehmann,  blamed the fact the fundraiser was placed in hands of the athletic department and an individual who she said, was inexperienced in fundraising. The parent of player, Eric Lehmann asked the regents, "Will you be a university who makes false promises to students to get them to come to your school? " Lehmann said many players were led to believe the stadium would be completed during their stay at SFA.

Athletic Director Robert hill conducted the fundraiser. When asked about the criticism he said, " Not everyone agrees with everything you do. Everyone is a coach. Everybody has a second opinion. You just got to roll with the punches."

Baseball will continue at city owned facilities. Nacogdoches Deputy City Manager Victoria LaFollett-Koenig said, " Certainly we want to continue working witht he university any way we can."

Donors to the ballpark project will be contacted in the coming days regarding their gifts. They'll be given the opportunity to have their money returned or to pledge it to improvements at the city park.  

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