When discussing the best college baseball facilities in the country, Baum Stadium is consistently one of the first places mentioned. With room for more than 10,000 spectators, an impeccable playing surface and amenities that rival most minor-league ballparks, it is the crown jewel of the amateur ranks. Of course the physical properties of Baum Stadium are only a portion of the baseball experience with the remainder in the form of fans that flock to the corner of Razorback and 15th Street to watch their Razorbacks take on all comers.
Officially named Baum Stadium at George Cole Field at its dedication on May 3, 1996, the facility derives its name from primary backers as well as from the history of Razorback Baseball. Arkansas’ facility prior to Baum Stadium was George Cole Field, and the new park clung to the past with its current name.
In 1998 Baum Stadium received a special honor when it was named the nation’s number one facility in Baseball America’s poll of best college facilities. Five years later it took second in the same poll, cementing its legacy as one of the best facilities in the nation. In 2008, Rivals.com named Baum the best collegiate stadium in the country. Since its construction, Arkansas officials have received numerous solicitations by coaches and administrators from across the country for blueprints and tours of the Razorbacks’ home ballpark in an attempt to capture some of its charm. Even though Baum Stadium has been replicated to some degree, no other place in the country has the atmosphere that Baum Stadium brings to college baseball which is why it has been the host to four NCAA Regional and a NCAA Super Regional.
Baum Stadium was one of the nation’s best facilities when it was constructed, but since then, has undergone three renovations making it the envy of visiting teams. The first upgrade came prior to the 2003 season when the hitting and pitching cages were enclosed to ensure a place for Razorback players to practice year round. 2,600 chair back seats were added to the park, 1,300 of which reside on each foul line.
Baum Stadium’s second renovation came a year later as 12 luxury boxes, coaches’ offices, a new scoreboard, and natural grass completely changed the feel of the park. A state-of-the-art scoreboard added full video, complete with a message center and an analog clock were added to the right-center field gap, which stands 39-feet-high by 76-feet-wide. The original turf field of Baum Stadium’s construction was torn out and rye grass was grown for the 2004 campaign, but replaced by a hybrid Bermuda in 2005. Part of the upgrades were made possible by contributions from the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Bob and Marilyn Bogle, the Pagnozzi Charities, John Tyson and Stan Ley.
The most recent renovation to Baum Stadium came prior to the 2007 season as 20 luxury boxes were built, 1,000 chair back seats were added, restrooms constructed and the Hog Pen and picnic area expanded. A new ticket office, field lights and wall pads were added as well. The final set of upgrades to the park brought Baum Stadium’s capacity to 10,737 seats with 8,237 of those coming from chair backs and 34 luxury boxes.
The combination of the upgrades and a top 10 baseball team produced record attendance numbers throughout the 2007 season as Arkansas smashed its school record for the fourth straight year. The Razorbacks became the first team in NCAA history to average more than 8,000 tickets sold per game (8,069) as its attendance over 33 home games was 266,270. Arkansas also set a school record for actual attendance with 198,218 (6,007 per game) passing through the gates.
The Hogs’ set single-game attendance records on May 5, 2007 against LSU with 10,727 tickets sold and an actual attendance of 10,581. They also set the school and Southeastern Conference three-game series attendance record that same weekend, May 4-6, 2007, with 30,564 tickets sold.
The superior attendance figures drawn to Baum Stadium allowed Fayetteville to host its third NCAA Regional in four years in 2007 and its fourth since 1999. Razorback fan support did not flounder as the regional was the best attended of all 16 sites, averaging 6,452 fans over its six games.
In 2004, Baum Stadium served as host to its second NCAA Regional and first NCAA Super Regional, drawing the largest total attendance in the nation for both events. The series-clinching win over Florida State drew 10,027 fans to Baum Stadium, eclipsing the previous night’s record of 9,338, set less than 24 hours earlier. In all, a combined 58,138 attended the NCAA Regional and Super Regional during the 2004 season.
Arkansas’ 2004 attendance numbers were no fluke as fans continued to pour into the ballpark. The 2005 and 2006 crowds continued to set records for both average paid and actual attendance. While the NCAA and SEC recognize tickets sold as their method of ranking schools, Arkansas keeps both actual patrons as well as paid attendance figures and have seen steady increases in both areas.
In an informal study by the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate, Arkansas led the nation in actual attendance between 2004 and 2007 and were edged by LSU in 2008 by 20 fans as patrons returned to Baton Rouge’s Alex Box Stadium in its final season.
Baum Stadium is the culmination of a vision that was possible only through the dedication of former Arkansas head coach Norm DeBriyn, former Athletics Director Frank Broyles, and the contributions of Willard and Pat Walker and Charlie Baum families.
While the efforts of DeBriyn and Broyles have been instrumental in maintaining a state-of-the-art home for UA baseball since the original George Cole Field opened in 1975, it was the generosity of the Baums and Walkers that allowed Arkansas to abandon plans to renovate its former facility and replace it with a new standard in college baseball venues.
The support of the George Cole family has been an integral part of the program’s growth since the former Razorback athlete, coach and athletics director donned the cardinal and white many years ago.
“Without the support of the Charlie Baum, Willard Walker and George Cole families, this wouldn’t have been possible,” DeBriyn said when Baum Stadium opened. “It’s an incredible facility and there is not one like it anywhere in the country. There is no way to describe the excitement our players and coaches have when they take the field.”
Representatives of all three families attended the groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 12, 1994. Eighteen months later, Arkansas’ Matt Carnes delivered Baum Stadium’s first pitch to Auburn’s Russell Whittenburg, completing the dream. The Razorbacks defeated the Auburn Tigers 9-2 in the stadium’s inaugural contest.