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Originally published February 16, 2014 at 4:48 PM | Page modified February 16, 2014 at 11:00 PM

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Washington baseball: New $15M ballpark changes equation

Coach Lindsay Meggs says $15 million park raises expectation by giving a Husky baseball program that ranked among the worst in facilities to among the best in the Pac-12.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Husky baseball

The new ballpark: The stadium was built at a cost of $15 million. A team building and clubhouse was finished in 2012, costing $4 million.

Home opener: Washington will play its first game in the new ballpark at 6 p.m., March 21, against Arizona, followed by games against the Wildcats on Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).

The season: The Huskies went 2-1-1 in their season-opening tournament Friday through Sunday at Texas State. The Huskies are picked to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the Pac-12. The Huskies are scheduled to play five home games (the first Feb. 28) at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium before moving into their new ballpark.

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Washington baseball coach Lindsay Meggs was talking inside a club-level suite that overlooks new Husky Ballpark when a power saw screeched from the stands below.

Meggs paused, smiled, then continued after the saw quieted.

“For a guy who wants to go to the College World Series,” he said, “that’s a great noise.”

A Bayley Construction crew is in the final stages of work on the $19 million project that Meggs said takes UW baseball out of the worst facility in the Pac-12 Conference and into one of the best.

And the Huskies’ coach isn’t shying away from expectations about what the facilities can do for the team’s on-field success.

“It changes everything,” Meggs said.

The Huskies haven’t been to the postseason since 2004, and the program has never hosted an NCAA regional postseason tournament — the old facility simply didn’t allow room for that. There was no real press box at old Husky Ballpark and the decrepit wooden bleachers looked as if they’d been soaking at the bottom of the sea.

“Brutal” was the word senior outfielder Brian Wolfe used to describe the old park.

And now?

“Wow,” Wolfe said.

The stadium is scheduled to open March 21 for the start of the Huskies’ three-game Pac-12 series against Arizona. The Huskies opened the season by going 2-1-1 in the Texas State tournament that ended Sunday at San Marcos, Texas.

Meggs said the old ballpark brought questions about UW’s commitment to baseball.

“So this answers all those questions and puts all that to bed and gives us a chance to recruit not only the best kids in the Northwest but nationally as well,” the coach said.

A brick exterior greets visitors to Husky Ballpark, which was designed by the same architects who helped design Safeco Field. The park’s spacious, covered concourse is intended to offer a similar feel to that of the Mariners’ home park.

Save for the dirt pitching mound, the field is covered with FieldTurf, including home plate and the batter’s box.

A large berm rises just beyond the fence outside the third-base dugout, a spot for kids and families to play and watch the game.

There are 2,406 seats, and stadium capacity is about 2,600.

The stadium itself cost $15 million and the Wayne Gittinger Team Building and players’ clubhouse (completed in March 2012) cost $4 million. The UW says no public funding was used for the project.

An 8,000-square-foot indoor player-development area, with room for seven netted batting cages, is as important as the stadium, Meggs said. That’s especially true for a program trying to recruit in Seattle weather.

Meggs begins his fifth year with the Huskies picked to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the Pac-12 preseason coaches’ poll (Colorado does not have a baseball program).

Last year, UW overcame a 4-16 start to the season and finished 15-15 in the Pac-12, which is again expected to be one of the toughest conferences in the country.

“We expect to compete for the top third of the conference every year,” Meggs said, as work continued around him. “That’s a realistic expectation.”

Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or On Twitter: @a_jude.

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