Categories:  Alumni, Flames Athletics

Opening day Thursday for Curtis Granderson Stadium

Aerial rendering of Curtis Granderson Stadium

A rendering of an aerial view of Curtis Granderson Stadium, which opens Thursday.

UIC will unveil the new Curtis Granderson Stadium Thursday with a grand opening celebration, kicking off a weekend of activities at the new ballpark.

The $10 million stadium was funded in part by $5 million contributed by Curtis Granderson, a UIC Hall-of-Famer, three-time MLB All-Star and current outfielder for the New York Mets.

The venue will be the new home of Flames baseball, in addition to hosting more than 38 youth organizations in Chicago.

Granderson announced his gift to fund the ballpark in February 2013 at the inaugural Diamond Dinner hosted by UIC baseball. The contribution is the largest gift in UIC Athletics history and the largest known gift from a professional athlete to his or her university.

“I’m thrilled to partner with my alma mater to provide the City of Chicago a state-of-the-art facility in which our youth can play, learn and grow,” Granderson said.

“UIC has played an integral role in shaping who I am as an athlete and as a person, so I’m confident that this facility will have a tremendous impact on our community. I’ve learned many important lessons growing up in Chicago, both in the classroom and on the baseball field, so it’s a privilege to now help provide those same opportunities.”

The new ballpark has a capacity of 1,784, with 1,284 fixed seats and space for 500 in the seating berms beyond left and right field.

The ballpark has a luxury suite, which can accommodate 40 people, and a press box and suite for media.

The site features a new training room and team room as well as two outdoor, synthetic turf practice tunnels. The project was designed by Populous, a sports architecture firm, and construction is managed by Turner Construction.

Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson, a 2003 graduate in business, rounds the bases as a Flame. “I’m thrilled to partner with my alma mater,” he says.

“Curtis Granderson Stadium is a facility that we believe has the potential to reshape how universities — particularly those in urban locations — use their athletic facilities to impact their surrounding communities,” said Jim Schmidt, UIC athletic director. “We have to think beyond our campuses, and instead think about how our colleges and universities can enrich the fabric of our cities.

“Curtis Granderson’s contribution and commitment to this ballpark being a community asset has resulted in partnerships with Major League Baseball, Chicago Public Schools and organizations for inner-city youth throughout Chicago. In turn, this ballpark is about more than Flames baseball and more than UIC. It’s an opportunity to impact the future of our city’s youth.”

Opening weekend will feature a three-game series against Wright State. The festivities begin Thursday with a ceremonial first pitch thrown out by Granderson at the 4:05 p.m. game.

Immediately after the game, UIC baseball will host the second annual Diamond Dinner in the Flames Athletic Center.

Friday will be Student Day at the ballpark, with UIC and Chicago high school students invited to the new facility. The the game starts at 6:05 p.m.

Saturday’s game, scheduled for 12:05 p.m., is Kid’s Day at the park, with children younger than 13 admitted free. A pre-game festival, including games, concessions and the opportunity to meet the UIC Flames baseball team, will start at 10 a.m.

“We are fortunate to have an alumnus like Curtis who is so much more than an athlete — he’s a role model who is committed to serving youth in his hometown and beyond,” said baseball head coach Mike Dee.

“Curtis’ contribution will be felt by the campus and city for generations to come. Seeing the ballpark come out of the ground over the past seven months has been a reminder of his leadership and a symbol of what the future has in store for the Flames and Chicago youth.”