The 2010 season begins a new era in the annals of University of Memphis baseball. After calling Nat Buring Stadium home for 36 seasons, construction and renovations have been completed for Tigers baseball's new home - FedExPark.
Thanks to a gift from FedEx Corp. (NYSE:FDX), construction redesigned the former Nat Buring Stadium that housed Memphis Tiger baseball since 1972.
The redesign includes a new dressing facility, indoor practice facility, training room, players lounge, locker rooms, coaches offices, dugouts, grandstand, concession areas, press box and a private suite which will aid players, teams and fans with their game day experience.
The dressing facility includes locker rooms for Tiger coaches and players, office and meeting space, a player's lounge, indoor pitching and batting cages, a training room, as well as a direct entrance into the Tiger dugout and field at game time.
The grandstand area features an expanded press area for media covering the events, as well as newly-constructed restrooms and concession stands. The press box also showcases private booths for both radio and television broadcasts, as well as working media and event management areas. A grand entrance way has been constructed at the main entrance to the ballpark from the leftfield parking lots.
Construction setup began on Feb. 16 - two days before 2009 Opening Day. Construction crews took over the Tigers' home, forcing them to play the 2009 season at three different ballparks in the Memphis area. The Tigers called Millington's USA Stadium its home for the season, but hosted games at AutoZone Park and Gagliano Stadium.
The stadium redesign is the latest of several upgrades to the Memphis baseball facility. On March 27, 1991, the Memphis Athletic Department ushered in a new era-night baseball. The Tigers hosted Mississippi State University in the program's first-ever night game. The Tigers played three times under the lights in 1991.
While the ballpark's surroundings were renovated, the playing field remains the same. Noted for its cozy dimensions, it has often proved to be a pitchers' park when the wind blows in from left field. However, when the wind blows out to left, hitters would think differently. The dimensions down the lines are 318 and 317 feet in left and right fields, respectively, 360 in the alleys and 379 to center.
Several other renovations have taken place since the stadium opened in 1972. Besides the 1991 addition of lights to the stadium, a new backstop was installed at the beginning of the 1994 season to allow better visibility for the fans. Chair back seats were also installed in the grandstand area for better comfort and enjoyment of Tiger baseball games.
During the summer of 1994, the playing surface of the infield was overhauled, giving the stadium one of the best natural grass playing surfaces in the South. In the winter of 1999, new dugouts were constructed. In the spring of 2004, the entire playing field was leveled out and resurfaced for better playing conditions. A new wall was added to the list of stadium improvements in the winter of 2005. Prior to the 2006 campaign, field turf was installed around the batter's circle to help maintain the field's aesthetic in the high-traffic area. In addition, a new scoreboard was put in place in January 2008.
FedExPark replaces Nat Buring Stadium, where Memphis compiled a 667-295-1 record in 36 seasons. The first game played at the former Nat Buring Stadium was on March 14, 1972, when the Tigers defeated Mississippi State 11-2 in game one of a doubleheader. Memphis went on to sweep the Bulldogs with a 4-2 victory in the evening game. The Tigers were also victorious in the final game at Nat Buring, outlasting ECU 7-5 on May 17, 2008.
Nat Buring Stadium hosted two Missouri Valley Conference Tournaments (1972, 1973), two Metro Conference Tournaments (1976, 1977) and the Great Midwest Conference Tournament in 1993. Memphis recorded winning records at home in 33 of its 36 seasons at "The Nat", including posting a program-best 32-1 mark in 1981.