The University announced plans to build a 6,500 sq. ft hitting pavilion on Dec. 18. The facility, to be completed by mid-March, will have five retractable batting cages and will be covered, allowing the teams to practice in inclement weather. Harvard will construct the pavilion in the same location as its current batting facilities, across the river near Harvard Stadium in Allston.
Softball head coach Jenny L. Allard said she thinks the cover provided by the pavilion will give both teams more flexibility with their practice schedules during the New England winter and beyond.
“Our backup place to hit or to do any kind of training is in the Gordon Track and track practice is from 2:30 to 6:00, so finding practice times around when their main practices occur is really difficult,” Allard said. “It’s going to allow us to consistently train for most of the year.”
In addition to providing covered practice spaces, the upgraded facility will also be safer for players, University trainers said. Baseball assistant coach Ron Rakowski said he thinks his players were outgrowing the current, aging batting cage.
“One of the main issues is that this one is just going to be safer,” Rakowski said. “That old cage, while it was effective and it was great, it had some structural issues that made it difficult at times as our guys got bigger and stronger and hit the ball harder.”
Rakowski, a pitching coach, said he thinks the new facility will allow his team to train more efficiently.
“We’re going to be able to move the nets around, we’re going to be able to throw in there—which, as a pitching coach, is exciting,” Rakowski said. “From a standpoint of just being able to expand on the drills and the activities that we do… it’s going to allow us to do so much more inside there.”
The teams will be able to practice in the new facility in all seasons except winter, when cold temperatures put aluminum bats at risk of breaking. Allard said that, due to cost restrictions, the pavilion will not be heated during wintertime and both teams will switch to training in the bubble—the covered, indoor facility the University builds over the football field at Harvard Stadium come winter—at that point.
“Where that space is located, you know, to get permanent bathrooms out there, to get plumbing out there, to get everything you need to heat the building, it was just too cost-prohibitive,” Allard said. “So we scaled it back, we came up with this three-season concept, and we have the budget to move forward.”
Rakowski said he hopes the anticipated hitting facility is just one many projects Harvard will debut going forward to improve the teams’ training grounds.
“We think it’s really going to complement what we have down there right now,” Rakowski said. “We’d like to think it’s the first step in a lot of projects, moving forward, as we continue to upgrade and continue to make our fields one of the best in the league.”
Though no specific donors have been named, Allard said the majority of the funding for the pavilion came from the Friends of Harvard Baseball and the Friends of Harvard Softball groups, both organized by the Harvard Varsity Club.
“You know, we’re thrilled and we’re very, very thankful for everyone who supported this project and worked hard on this project,” Allard said. “It’s taken a long time and we’re so excited to see the dirt moving out there.”
Harvard plans to install the structure’s utilities and foundations over December and January, and will begin construction mid-February.
—Staff writer Madeleine R. Nakada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.—Staff writer Bryan Hu can be reached at email@example.com.
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