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Construction underway on dugouts and bull pens; grandstands, press boxes on tap later

George Fox University has made some major investments in its athletic facilities over the past decade, most notably with the construction of the Austin Sports Complex for soccer and lacrosse and the creation of Stoffer Family Stadium as part of football's return to campus.

More recently, the university has made renovations to Miller Gymnasium and significantly upgraded the baseball field with new dugouts, bleachers and a synthetic playing surface in 2016. SETH GORDON -  Pihl Construction worker Austin Duyck moves gravel earlier this summer as part of the renovation of the softball stadium at George Fox University's Morse Athletic Complex. The project includes     renovated   dugouts, a new backstop and grandstands.

GFU also announced its intent to build an indoor tennis facility this fall, but softball is also getting its turn this summer, as renovations to the facility are underway and will be completed prior to the 2018 season next spring.

"The players are definitely excited," coach Jessica Hollen said. "We've been going out and taking pictures and sending them to all of them. They're definitely anticipating the new facility and excited to get back and get going."

So far, construction has been limited to the competition portion of the facility, including new dugouts, a new backstop, fencing, netting and new bullpens, but a second wave this fall will add new grandstands, a press box and sidewalks.

"As a whole, it's a huge improvement," Hollen said. "Having legitimate grandstands, a press box and all of those things will be great. The dugouts will be large and nice, so that's a very good upgrade. The bull pens will be turfed and great to be able to use."

The most significant aspects of the project will be the new grandstands and press box and those features will also added to the baseball facility beginning this fall.

"It will be elevated, so that will give even better sight lines," Hollen said. "I believe that it will seat about 370 or so. That will be a huge upgrade, obviously."

Previously, there was limited seating for softball, most of which was directly behind the chainlink backstop, while many fans sat or stood on the hill that runs parallel to the first-base line. With the outfield fence of the baseball stadium and bull pens located on the south side of the facility, there was no viewing areas down the third-base line.

Athletic director Adam Puckett said the design for the grandstands and press box for both softball and baseball will be nearly identical and feature five rows down the third base line, five rows behind home plate and 10 rows down the first-base line. They are expected to be completed in mid to late October, according to Puckett.

"They're all aluminum bleachers with a nice powder-coated blue on the rise to prevent glare," Puckett said. "It will look good."

Much of the work that has already been done at the baseball facility was driven by a team-led fundraising campaign and the softball renovations have been similar, Hollen said. The coach added that after an initial contribution from the school, the team has been raising funds itself for the softball portions of the project, which are currently estimated to cost $522,000.

"It's mostly been parents, grandparents, alumni and other people associated with our program overall," Hollen said. "A few people from the community also donated, but mostly it was people around the program."

Hollen said that there have been general discussions about facility upgrades since she took over the program 10 years ago, but that serious efforts were made in 2016 to explore potential costs and then fundraising began this year.

A second phase of upgrades that will improve drainage and install Astroturf are planned, but no timeline has been set.

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