NEW ORLEANS - The rain held up for a brief while on Friday morning allowing the University of New Orleans an opportunity to break ground on Maestri Field.
The groundbreaking ceremony comes as the facility enters its next stage of renovation on a construction project that will cost an approximate $3 million and was raised strictly from private donations.
The private funds come from gifts from various individual and corporate donors. These funds include a bequest from Wick Carey, an avid UNO baseball fan who regularly attended Privateer games and kept score from his seat.
The first phase featured a renovation of the clubhouse and coaches offices.
Following demolition over the last two weeks, the next step in the renovation project includes a new grandstand with chairback seating for nearly 800 and a new press box. The press box includes an area for game-day operations, two radio booths and a private suite with bathroom and wet bar, as well as an elevator to the press box.
"We are committed to enhancing the Privateer baseball experience for our student-athletes, fans, alumni and visitors," said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Derek Morel. "This facility is the cornerstone of our program's evolution."
"We are eager to build on the strong Privateer baseball tradition which began with Coach Ron Maestri and his great teams."
Maestri coached the Privateer baseball team from 1970 to 1984 and served as the University's athletic director for 21 years from 1979 until he retired in 2000. Privateer Park was opened in 1979 with the field renamed for Maestri in 2002.
On Friday, Maestri joined Morel, University President Peter J. Fos and current UNO head baseball coach Bruce Peddie along with Kevin Smith Construction President Esther Smith in the ceremonial groundbreaking.
The facility will be under construction through the remainder of the calendar year before the Privateers take the field on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at 2 p.m. against an LSU baseball program coached by former UNO player Paul Maineri.
The opening weekend in 2014 will serve as an alumni weekend, honoring both the 1974 NCAA Division II and 1984 Division I World Series teams. The 1984 squad was the first from Louisiana to make it to the College World Series.
"The Maestri Field at Privateer Park project is truly a team effort," said Morel. "We would not be in this position to upgrade our facility without the efforts of our university facilities team including Jim Royer and Robert Johnson and our baseball facility manager, Jason Veillion."
Photos from Friday's groundbreaking event can be found on UNOPrivateers.com. UNO anticipates playing at least 30 games at the facility next year, including a pair of contests against Tulane and 15 Southland Conference contests.