The UALR baseball program has called Curran Conway Field home for 26 years, but beginning in 2005, everything from the playing surface to the name is nothing like it has been in the past.
UALR Director of Athletics Chris Peterson announced before the start of the 2004 season that an anonymous $1.6 million gift had been given for the renovation of the baseball field at CurranConwayPark. Peterson also announced the field would be named Gary Hogan Field in honor of the former head coach and current UALR associate athletic director.
Hogan directed the UALR baseball program from 1986 to 1996. He ended his 11-year tenure with 276 wins, the most in school history. Hogan engineered one of the greatest athletic moments in school history when the Trojans defeated #1 ranked OklahomaState 7-3 during the 1987 season. Prior to his coaching stint, Hogan was the sports director at Little Rock’s CBS affiliate KTHV Channel 11 for eight years.
“I was touched, honored and humbled all at the same time when Chris told me about naming the field in my honor. You can’t believe what this means to me and my family,” Hogan said. “My family spent many hours out at Curran Conway Field over the years. Junior (Hogan’s son) grew up there and my daughter helped my wife run the concession stand during games.”
The renovation project transformed Gary Hogan Field into one of the top facilities in the Sun Belt Conference and in the Mid-South region.
“It is very exciting to be part of enhancing the teaching and playing experience of our student-athletes," said UALR athletic director Chris Peterson. "This will not only enhance the experience of UALR student-athletes, but will assist in the development of youth baseball in Central Arkansas. I’m very fortunate to be the director of athletics at an institution that has philanthropic individuals with such a serious commitment to student-athlete welfare.”
"I am most grateful to the donors for wanting our baseball players to compete in a first-class facility, and I applaud Chris Peterson's leadership in accomplishing this major step,” UALR Chancellor Dr. Joel Anderson said. “Our coaches, baseball players and fans are going to love the changes. To my knowledge, Gary Hogan is unsurpassed among coaches at this institution, past and present, in his personal investment in the program he was leading as coach. It is a particular pleasure to see the renovated field named for him."
The renovation project started with the installation of 30,000 square feet of AstroTurf 1200 which will cover the entire infield. This surface is currently used by three Major League Baseball teams. The outfield remains natural grass, but will have a new irrigation system.
A new lighting system was installed on six new light towers and will have enough lighting to exceed standards required for collegiate baseball.
A new 90-foot- by 90-foot outdoor workout area and bullpen was constructed down the right field line. Half of the workout area will feature artificial turf while the other half will consist of grass/dirt infield. The area will also feature five bullpen mounds.
A 10,800-square foot climate-controlled indoor practice facility was also constructed down the right field line. The building has a surface identical to the infield and features five retractable hitting tunnels. There is an 80-foot retractable hitters drill area and three dirt bullpen mounds. All netting in the indoor facility has the ability to slide to one side to create an area large enough for full infield practice drills.
Cosmetic improvements were made to the existing seating area and roof covering the grandstand. A new sound system, backstop, screen and a four-foot vinyl covered chain link fence were constructed down each foul line as well.
Spectator seating areas were expanded on both sides of the grandstands. These terraced hillsides were constructed with multiple levels, allowing fans to sit on lawn chairs or blankets to view games. Also, 200 seatback chairs were added to the grandstand prior to the 2005 season.
The City of Little Rock has also committed to expanding and improving the parking area adjacent to the front entrance of the ball park.
“We feel very fortunate to have such a positive relationship in this joint venture with the City of Little Rock and the Parks and Recreation Department,” Peterson said. “This project would not be a reality without the cooperation of the city and Bryan Day, the Director of the Parks and Recreation Department.”
UALR began using Curran Conway in 1978. At the time the infield consisted of rocks and dirt, and the outfield was a mass of dried, brown grass. During the early 1980s, the facility was in such bad shape that home games were to Ray Winder Field and Fort Roots Field in North Little Rock.
When Hogan took over the program in 1986 the facility was “a rock pit and dust bowl,” he said. Hogan immediately went to work on the field, and found supporters willing to donate more than $500,000 worth of services and materials to upgrade the field into a playable facility. Over the years, Hogan installed a turf infield, grass outfield, dugouts, outfield wall, an indoor hitting facility and also landscaped the surrounding grounds of the ball park.
Another artificial turf infield, new warning track and outfield drainage system were installed before the 1998 season. The Wheeler Complex was added before the 2001 season. That renovation project included a new player clubhouse, offices for the coaching staff, player meeting rooms, new dugouts, umpires locker room, press box and gated front entrance. A new state of the art scoreboard was added during the 2003 season.