Lights are coming to UCSB baseball.
After years of fundraising to install lights at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, UCSB reached its goal for the $1.3 million project, and the Gauchos will start hosting night games next season.
“The support we got from a key group of donors, including the Gretler Foundation and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation, really made the difference,” said John McCutcheon, UCSB’s Director of Athletics. “You need some real leadership and real vision with significant gifts to get it done and that’s what we got. One led to another and then another and another, and in course of the last year we were able to put it together. All the thanks in the world go out to the donors who made it happen. This has been talked about forever and we really think it’s a game changer — literally.”
Said Paul Graziano, president of the Gretler Foundation: “The Gretler Foundation is proud to support a project that benefits not only UCSB Baseball but all UCSB students and the entire Santa Barbara community.”
Baseball Andrew Checketts was delighted with the news. He said having a lighted stadium will be beneficial for his student athletes, the baseball program and the community.
“It increases our flexibility in terms of class schedules and practice times, and gives us the chance to train under artificial light and acclimate to it before we compete,” said Checketts, the team’s coach for seven years. “It also provides an opportunity for our student athletes to really showcase their skills and talents to the community and their peers. Lights do that by allowing us to play at a later time, when people in the community can come watch us play. It’s entertainment, too. We want to be able to provide a game day experience that is on par with our competitors. Cal Poly, Irvine, Long Beach, Fullerton — they have fans in the stands, that environment and energy. Having lights will allow us to do that.”
The lights also make it possible for UCSB to host NCAA Tournament Regionals on campus. The last time the Gauchos were the host team for a regional, they played it a minor league ballpark in Lake Elsinore, nearly 200 miles from campus.
“We’re really hopeful that this is the first domino that starts a cascade,” Checketts said. “The hope is that this domino allows us to continue to raise funds to make our facility on par with those of other teams in the Big West that we compete against. Lights won’t get us all the way there, but it gets us going in the right direction.”
“This definitely gives us momentum,” agreed McCutcheon, who has a wishlist of projects.
In recent years, UCSB installed a new floor and new scoreboard in the Thunderdome, upgraded soccer practice fields and strength and conditioning equipment, and added new office space for academic advising in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building.
Long-eyed enhancements to the track are finally complete, and UCSB in late April will host a track meet for the first time in a decade.
“If you look at our facilities against those of our competitors, we’re not where we need to be,” said McCutcheon. “But one thing our competitors can’t duplicate is this campus and where we are as a university — that’s the strongest thing we have going for us. As we make more improvements in other areas specific to sports and athletics, it has that much more of an impact. We’re going to keep at it. This is a great place. It’s a great place for student-athletes to come and get a great education and to have a quality athletic experience as well. We hope it gets more exciting from here.”