A Refurbished Ballpark to Call Home in the Near-Future for ODU Baseball


Digital rendering of the planned Ellmer Family Baseball Complex by Populous

By Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor

When it opened in 1983, Bud Metheny Ballpark started off as a state-of-the-art facility, but has received major renovations throughout the years since.  In 2021, the facility’s shortcomings finally caught up with the ODU baseball program after the Monarchs’ victory over Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA Tournament, where they earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They then had the opportunity to host the NCAA regional, but were unable to do so because the facility did not meet the NCAA minimum standards.


As a result, the NCAA regional was moved to the University of South Carolina, where ODU met their demise. Missing the opportunity to host a baseball regional in Norfolk was a tough pill to swallow, but Old Dominion’s athletic administration and school officials have made strides to ensure that something like this won’t happen again. 


In the latter half of January 2023, it was decided that the university would hire Populous and Mosley, two of the world’s premier architectural firms in sports, to design the renovation to Bud Metheny Ballpark. The last time that these two firms collaborated with Old Dominion was back in 2019-2020 when they oversaw the $72 million renovation to ODU’s S.B. Ballard stadium, which is home to the football program. The new and improved S.B. Ballard is one of the finest football facilities among the Group of 5 programs across the nation. 


In the last 35 years, Populous has designed more than 3,000 venues worth $40 billion, including Norfolk’s Harbor Park baseball stadium when Populous was known as HOK Sport. The firm has an entire division devoted to baseball stadium design, whose projects include Yankee Stadium, Oracle Park in San Francisco, Citi Field in Queens, and Truist Field outside of Atlanta. 


After selecting who would renovate the ballpark, ODU authorized a feasibility study on replacing the older stadium, where it was determined that it would cost $20 million to renovate. In March of 2022, ODU began to fundraise to help pay for the project. After over a year of campaigning, the school has managed to raise nearly $18 million of the $20 million needed. 


One of the most notable donations the Monarchs received was a generous $2.5 million donation from local businessman Dennis Ellmer and his wife, Jan Ellmer. Thanks to the hefty contribution, the new baseball facility will be known as the Ellmer Family Baseball Complex. The vision for this renovated ballpark includes new locker rooms and offices for the program, improved sightlines, and chairback seating behind home plate. There will be an expansion to the press box, restrooms, and concession stands.  


A premium club will be constructed behind home plate, underneath the seats. The club will have large, moveable picture windows looking onto the field and will include luxury seating, big-screen televisions, upscale concessions, and an entrance to a covered outdoor terrace with stand-up tables, chairback seats and patio heaters for the early-season games. The stadium’s back façade, which is the most visible portion of the facility, will be encased in “ODU brick.”


“We want this facility to be one that everyone in the community will be proud of. We want to give our coaches a facility that will help them recruit and our student-athletes a world class training and competition venue,” said Dr. Wood Selig, ODU’s director of athletics. “We already have great fans. Providing a more comfortable place to watch games will help us grow our fan base.”


The Monarchs have already begun the first stages to the ballpark’s renovation with the installation of a new LED lighting system. The new lights were manufactured by Musco Lighting, an industry leader for stadium lighting. They have installed lighting for dozens of NFL, MLB, and college football and baseball venues across the world. Musco installed the lighting system for the “Field of Dreams” field where the MLB hosts a yearly matchup. 


The upgrades to the lights were in the works before the campaign to renovate the Bud Metheny began. This new system was designed specifically for the ODU facility, based on blueprints of the ballpark. The LED system will minimize bleeding from the lights. Because there is no bleeding, each pole will have a light pointed upwards to fully illuminate any fly balls that go beyond the lights. The renovation will also reduce the shining of the lights into the nearby Lambert’s Point neighborhood. 


“Our lighting system had long outlived its useful life. To be honest, our lights were terrible. This is such a huge upgrade for us,” head coach Chris Finwood stated. “With the old lights, an outfielder could lose a ball in the lights. That isn’t going to happen with these lights. 


“The bottom line is that our players and our fans will be able to see our games so much better,” Finwood said. “Baseball is a visual game.” 


The new system will cost $650,000, which is a significant reduction from the $900,000 that was budgeted for the project. These new lights will be far more energy efficient and will save Old Dominion about 50% or more on utility costs and thousands of dollars annually in maintenance costs. 


The ODU baseball program is coming off of a 85-33 record in the last two seasons since its defeat in the regional final, and will strive to improve as their facilities prepare for a drastic change in scenery at Bud Metheny Ballpark. Although the $20 million project is in the final stages of its campaign, it is not projected to be completed until the 2025 baseball season.