(Editor Note: The following is the second in a series of articles where Western Carolinian writers report on why the athletic facilities at WCU are named after who they are.)
The Western Carolina University baseball team has called the facilities within Hennon Stadium its home since 1972, and they have been winning there ever since. The Catamounts have a 526-201 record in the past 30 years on Ronnie G. Childress Field in the confounds of Hennon Stadium. Winning 72% of their home games, they have become one of the most consistently successful athletic teams at the university.
Early in 1978, the baseball team moved to their current facility at Childress Field, which is about 200 yards from their previous playing area, Haywood field. Childress Field was named in honor of Ronnie G. Childress, who was an enthusiastic supporter of the university’s athletics. His family’s radio station, WRGC, in Sylva was the first to broadcast the Catamount baseball team’s games. After his death in 1975, his family started a scholarship foundation the same year, and scholarships have been awarded annually to a Western baseball player since then. The field was dedicated to Childress on April 26, 1978, and was built at an initial cost of $125,000.
Thanks to Mr. Lamar Hennon, a Dalton, GA native, the facility underwent several modifications over an eight-year period. Permanent bleacher seating, the facility’s press box, and grandstand seats were added in 1990, and in 1999, a digitalized scoreboard, concession stands, rest rooms, and a new infield were added as well. WCU showed their appreciation toward Hennon by naming the stadium in his honor. The Stadium renovations from Hennon totaled over $500,000.
In late 2002, Hennon Stadium continued to grow as lights and a new sound system were added, allowing the team to play their first night game on March 25, where they upset the top ten-ranked Clemson baseball team. The following summer, the field itself underwent a complete facelift, costing almost $500,000. A new drainage and irrigation system was installed, as well as new infield dirt and warning track. A new clubhouse on the home side of the stadium, as well as improved seating, are in the works for upcoming seasons.
Western Carolina hosted the Southern Conference Tournaments in 1984 and 1986 in Hennon Stadium. In total, the WCU baseball team has been to the Southern Conference Tournament Championship thirteen times in the last twenty seven years. Childress Field and Hennon Stadium houses huge crowds of Western students, faculty, and local supporters of the baseball program every season and likely will again in 2009 as the baseball team will host 28 games, beginning with a three game set versus Bowling Green on Feb. 20.
(Kaitlyn Mullis was a sports writer for the Western Carolinian during the fall 2008 semester. She is now pursing a collegiate athletic career as a cross country athlete at Pfeiffer University.)