Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
New baseball, track facility enthuses UA coaches
Arkansas' indoor baseball facility was reported to cost $9.625 million.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas baseball assistant coach Tony Vitello was excited about opening the doors to the Razorbacks' new indoor training facility to guests last weekend during the Hawg Showcase baseball tournament in town.
"It's incredible and 'Wow' is the first thing literally everyone says before they can even get all the way around the corner over there when we show it to people," Vitello said during media day at the 52,000 square foot facility on Monday.
Vitello said the Razorbacks recently secured a commitment from a player simply because of the building.
"That's the easiest way I can tell you that it'll impact recruiting," Vitello said. "It's going to help us get guys."
The climate-controlled facility, built at a cost of approximately $9 million, is connected to the Randal Tyson Indoor Track complex and adjacent to Baum Stadium. A full-scale artificial turf infield encased by netting is the centerpiece of the new facility, while four lanes of a sprint track and netting for the track and field throws are also included.
"I think this completes the story of the fastest track in the world," Arkansas women's track and field coach Lance Harter said.
"Our athletes can warm up in here in a place where they can truly get ready to compete on the fastest track in the world," Arkansas men's track and field coach Chris Bucknam said. "It makes this track facility the best in the world, no doubt in my mind. And I'm not understating that. It really is a world-class facility. What was sorely missing was a great warm-up area. Well, we've got it now."
Hosting indoor meets will be easier for the Razorbacks now, as athletes in the throwing events will not have to be bused to the Walker Pavilion.
"If there was ever a complaint, it was the idea that our throws had to be afar, our warm-up area had to be afar," Harter said. "But now we bring it all under one roof. Track and field has always been considered a three-ring circus, but now the circus is all under one roof."
Harter added that showing recruits the new facility "knocks their socks off."
Vitello said the indoor workout area, had it been completed, would have helped with preparations for the 2014 baseball season, which were made difficult by several bouts of snow and ice during the early part of the year.
"I think it would have helped us tremendously, especially with our arms," Vitello said, "because we had a lot of question marks with all those pitchers ... leaving and quite frankly those weren't solved really until the very end of the year. So it would have sped up that process."
Vitello, speaking for the baseball program while Coach Dave Van Horn is away coaching the USA collegiate national team in Cary, N.C., said the building won't simply be used on snow days.
"By no means will this be a cold-weather facility, starting right off the bat in September," he said. "Regardless of what the temperature is, we're going to have guys in here getting things done."
As an example, Vitello cited outfielder Luke Bonfield, who was taken in the 21st round of the amateur draft by the New York Mets earlier this month, before confirming on social media last weekend that he was enrolling at Arkansas.
"Luke's going to live in here," Vitello said. "And some of the other guys we've got too, made sure they lived within walking distance with some of these new apartments that are around Baum Stadium because they want to be in this building non-stop."
Sports on 06/24/2014