Locked out – baseball training center shut down due to code violations

The baseball team is having to practice and train off campus due to code violations prohibiting use of the Bobby Mercer Facility. Photo by Allyson Hazellrigg.

The baseball team is having to practice and train off campus due to code violations prohibiting use of the Bobby Mercer Facility. Photo by Allyson Hazellrigg.

Oklahoma Christian University’s baseball team has been locked out of its training facility this off-season due to building code violations of the Bobby Murcer Indoor Training Facility.

In 2007, Oklahoma Christian began a three-phase project for the renewal of its baseball program, which started with the establishment of Dobson Field and progressed with the construction of the Bobby Murcer Indoor Training Facility in 2010.

Planners expected the expansion to conclude in 2016 once the addition of new bleachers, a press box, concession stand and restrooms finished up, but code violations inside the Murcer Facility have brought this project to a halt.

With the facility on lockdown, the coaches relocated their offices to the third-base dugout and the players are traveling off-campus in order to practice hitting, as well as losing access to the team’s locker room.

The Murcer Facility is dedicated to Bobby Murcer, an Oklahoma native and All-Star outfielder and broadcaster for the New York Yankees who passed away in 2008 from brain cancer.

“They have locker rooms, coaches’ offices, a viewing area with some memorabilia, bathrooms, the back half of the building is the hitting area for the teams, there’s also a section of the building that has free weights,” Interim Athletic Director David Lynn said.

According to Executive Director of Facilities and Construction Management Steve Scovell, Oklahoma Christian invited the city of Oklahoma City to look over all aspects of the project before moving forward with the new add-ons at MidFirst Plaza.

“Oklahoma Christian University is special in the sense that the school has an Edmond mailing address, but is located in Oklahoma City jurisdiction,” Scovell said. “When we asked the city to come out, they said the building had some electrical issues that violated code.”

The National Electrical Code (NEC), adopted by all 50 states, is the benchmark for safe electrical design, installation and inspection to protect people and property from electrical hazards, according to its website.

Scovel said the city of Oklahoma City has an amendment to the NEC that allows for different protocols, specifically the type of electrical cables used in buildings.

“Most of us weren’t here when the Murcer Facility was constructed, but what we can conclude is that the original electrician had good intentions and good workmanship, but did not realize that the building fell under Oklahoma City’s jurisdiction, rather than Edmond’s,” Scovell said. “If the building was 400 feet north of where it is now, it would be in code.”

According to Head Baseball Coach Lonny Cobble, the construction of the facility and the absence of its features impacts his baseball team in more than one way.

“Right now we’re going over to The Fuel, it’s about a mile and a half from here and they’ve been great,” Cobble said. “It’s kind of inconvenient because you have to go off-campus to practice, but at the same time we’re still getting to hit, we’re still getting in our drills on bad weather days.”

Oklahoma Christian is seeing one of its largest baseball rosters in history with the addition of its junior varsity squad. According to Cobble, the restriction of access to the Murcer Facility combined with the large number of players is “inconvenient.”

“It’s affected as far as we’re having to go off-campus to hit, we’re lockering 70 guys in one locker room, which is a nightmare,” Cobble said. “The boys have handled it really well, and we have a bunch of junior college kids who that’s what they’re used to.”

Moreover, the setbacks in the project reach farther than the current baseball team itself, effecting potential future baseball players, according to Cobble.

“You tell kids, ‘Hey, these things are going to happen,’ and then you have a setback. The biggest thing is you don’t want to ruin your credibility with the recruits, because that stuff gets around,” Cobble said. “Facilities attract kids. When I played, we didn’t have the great facilities and things like that, but today kids look at facilities and what you’ve got and if you’re making improvements and that’s important to kids.”

Construction to bring the building up to code is underway outside of the Murcer Facility. Along Baird Loop, south of Dobson Field, crews are working to comply with easy fixes to the listed code violations.

“Part of the construction you’re seeing now is putting in a fire lane so they can have a fire hydrant close enough to the facility itself,” Lynn said. “Also, they are putting in a fire wall inside the building for a code issue.”

Until the indoor facility is made available to the team again, the team will continue to have access to Dobson Field, the Barn and the off-campus training location.

“They don’t have ‘their place’ to gather, spend time together, get dressed — everything that a locker room would be,” Lynn said. “Right now they’re having to make the best of it and use the Barn for what they can and they have the baseball field itself that is useable.”

According to Cobble, his team’s attitudes have remained positive throughout this process and it looks forward to when they can return to the Murcer Facility.

“It’s just a bump in the road,” Cobble said. “They know we’re here, and as long as we can get out on that field and practice and keep good weather, I think they’re pretty good with the fact that this is what we’re faced with.”

According to Scovell, the timeline for the Murcer Facility project is unknown, but he said the school is working as fast as possible.

“We’ve identified all areas that need reconfiguring,” Scovell said. “We’ve removed dry wall to expose all electrical wires, we’ve met with three electrical contractors and we plan on starting very soon.”

According to Cobble, he hopes his team is only out for another month or two.

“There’s a lot of teams that win games without a locker room,” Cobble said. “We’ll just be one of them for a while until ours gets fixed.”

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