The new Alex Box Stadium is not quite so new anymore.
It's been 10 years since the then-state-of-the-art ballpark at the corner of Gourrier and Nicholson replaced the old Alex Box, a Works Progress Administration-era facility that was LSU’s baseball home for more than 70 years.
LSU baseball has returned, and expectations are high.
While several Southeastern Conference rivals have built or rebuilt their ballparks since The Box opened in 2009, LSU has spent much of that decade polishing the gem.
“You have to improve,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “You look around, and Mississippi State and Florida are building new stadiums in excess of $50 million each. In a competitive league like the SEC, you always have to be making improvements.”
This year, there has been more polishing than ever.
“It doesn’t have to be new all the time,” said Emmett David, LSU’s senior associate athletic director for facilities and project development. “You can have character and still have quality. That’s what Alex Box Stadium gives you.”
Fans attending LSU’s opening weekend will notice several changes, new construction and soon will see even more work going on outside the stadium. Here’s a rundown of what's new and on the drawing boards:
• Expanded video board: LSU touts its new 2,700-square-foot video scoreboard behind the left-field bleachers as the largest in college baseball. David said improvements to the stadium’s sound system are in the plans for 2020.
• “The Yard”: LSU has put up two tented areas in the left- and right-field corners where fans 21 and older can buy beer and wine from two hours before first pitch through the seventh inning. Alcohol will only be allowed to be consumed in those areas, similar to “The Chute,” which LSU installed in Tiger Stadium last season.
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• “The Intimidator”: The design of the famous billboard in right field is the same, but it has received a new covering after the old one became faded from years in the elements. “We freshened up ‘The Intimidator’ so it will be bright and vibrant again,” David said.
• Concession-area TVs: LSU has installed televisions in concession-stand areas to keep fans current, even when they're in line for hot dogs and popcorn. “It will be similar to what we have in Tiger Stadium,” David said. “Even if you have your back to the playing field, you will be able to see the game.”
• Weight room and alumni locker room: Also in right field, LSU is expanding the building that houses its indoor batting cages to include a weight room dedicated for the baseball team’s use. Currently, baseball players use the nearby football weight room at the LSU football complex, but they often must work around football training schedules. The new building, scheduled to be completed in April, will also house a locker room for former LSU players in professional baseball to use when they come to work out at The Box.
“I’m looking forward to walking that first recruit through there, and they see the names 'Bregman' and 'Nola' and 'Gausman' and 'LeMahieu,’ ” Mainieri said.
• Legacy Plaza: Adjacent to the current Champions Plaza, near the home-plate area of Alex Box, will be a new project called Legacy Plaza. While Champions Plaza honors LSU baseball’s six College World Series titles, Legacy Plaza will commemorate the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles, as well as its CWS appearances. The centerpiece of Legacy Plaza will be a bronze statue of former coach and athletic director Skip Bertman — the first former LSU coach to be so honored. David said LSU has tentative plans to complete the project by mid-May.
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Even though LSU perennially leads all college baseball programs in attendance, David said the Alex Box Stadium improvements have been made with an eye to elevating the fan experience.
“It’s focused on patronage,” he said. “What do fans really want? We want to help attract more people to the games.”