Gamecocks' riverfront stadium: Field of dreams ranks in 'top 2 or 3 in country'
If opening day at Carolina Stadium is anything like the lunchtime traffic that has been cruising the new baseball stadium, coach Ray Tanner will be a happy man.
"This stadium puts us up there in the very top two or three in the country."
The Gamecocks' field of dreams has already become a huge draw for curious fans well before its debut in a season-opening series against Duquesne on Feb. 21-23.
And Tanner expects those fans all to converge for the coronation of the much-anticipated riverfront stadium.
"We're hoping for standing-room only," he says. "It's a beautiful stadium for our supporters and loyal Gamecock fans. We're hoping for a beautiful day in late February to open Carolina Stadium.
"Because of the way the stadium is laid out, people have been able to drive by and look down at it. It's become a destination. People drive by on their lunch hour.
"So many have told me that they have swung by and looked inside--some even when they're not supposed to."
'Top two or three in the country'
Tanner can forgive those trespasses to a new home that "meets every expectation."
"It's a great venue," he continues. "We have some outstanding facilities in our conference--Arkansas, and LSU is about to open a new stadium. But this stadium puts us up there in the very top two or three in the country."
The stadium has 5,400 permanent seats but will hold about 8,000 fans with additional bleachers in left field and and a grassy picnic location on a berm behind right field.
Home dates against Clemson on March 1 and April 22 are sure to push the capacity higher and set attendance records that will be contained not by the fans' enthusiasm but by the fire marshall's count.
River, Palmetto trees set the scene
A view from home plate takes in the Columbia skyline. The stadium's third-base side is adjacent to the Congaree River, and the facility will connect to the Three Rivers Greenway. Home runs to left or right field could hit one of the two dozen Palmetto trees planted behind the outfield fence.
The stadium represents the first major footprint in the river district of Innovista, the University's urban research and innovation campus. "We're a stone's throw from the Greek Village and the Colonial Life Arena," Tanner says.
"It's a tremendous location. There's nothing I don't like about it."
No doubt the lunchtime and game-day crowds will agree.
Duquesne at South Carolina
- When: 2 p.m. Saturday (Sold out); 2 p.m. Sunday; noon Monday
- Opening Day Ceremonies: Alumnus Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish will sing the national anthem. University President Harris Pastides and former baseball coaches Bobby Richardson and June Raines will throw out the ceremonial first pitches.