Construction to start on Tom Heath Field at Lawson Plaza

(From left) Ricky and Kelly Lawson and OC softball coach Tom Heath pose in front of the sign designating the name for the university’s new softball stadium, on which construction soon will begin.
(From left) Ricky and Kelly Lawson and OC softball coach Tom Heath pose in front of the sign designating the name for the university’s new softball stadium, on which construction soon will begin.

Click here to watch a video from the groundbreaking ceremony

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 9, 2012) – Oklahoma Christian University held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for a new softball stadium that will be ready for use for the 2013 season.

During the ceremony, university leaders honored Ricky and Kelly Lawson, who provided the seven-figure anchor gift for the stadium project, for which fundraising remains ongoing. The new facility will replace Lady Eagle Field, which has been in use since OC started its softball program in 1995.

The stadium will be named “Tom Heath Field at Lawson Plaza” in honor of Heath, who has served as the only head coach in OC softball history.

When completed, the new stadium will include locker rooms, coaches’ offices, training rooms, meeting rooms, a players’ lounge, permanent restrooms, a press box, permanent seating, an indoor training facility and a 34-vehicle parking lot.

“Our softball program has been an important part of OC,” OC President John deSteiguer said. “Year in and year out, coach Tom Heath and his players compete at a very high level. We are very proud of our softball student-athletes and it will be a thrill to have a donor-funded softball complex that is a first-class home for our team.”

Ricky Lawson is a 1992 OC alumnus. He said he and Kelly became interested in the OC softball team after their friend Kent Allen, OC’s vice president for advancement, suggested they attend a game. Ricky Lawson said he knew Heath had served as OC’s intramural director when Lawson was a student.

“After Kelly and I got involved with the team, we noticed that Tommy was working really hard on the field, dragging the infield, watering by hand and so on,” Lawson said. “We decided we wanted to help the team and this new field, which we think will be as nice as any in the country, seemed like the natural thing.”

Heath said the Lawsons have been a blessing to the softball program.

“Ricky and Kelly have generously contributed over the last few years to allow us to enter tournaments and to travel when we otherwise might not have been able to,” Heath said. “They have been a blessing to our team.

“When Ricky and Kelly told me what they wanted to do for the softball program I was speechless,” Heath said. “Their love for the softball program was very evident when they decided to donate the anchor gift to build a new facility. This new facility will enhance the quality of our softball program and give us the opportunity to recruit the best student-athlete. We are very excited to get this project under way.”

The new stadium’s home plate will be situated 130 feet to the northeast of the current stadium’s home plate, in what has been center field. The artificial turf playing surface should be installed this fall. The project also will include construction of a bullpen and batting cages for both the home and visiting teams.

“This will be one of the finest softball facilities in the country for a school our size,” Heath said.

Sarah Peoples, a junior center fielder from Piedmont, said OC softball players are thrilled they will have a new facility to enjoy.

“With our schedule being nonstop traveling, we need a place to wind down and focus,” Peoples said. “By getting a new field, I think it shows the past team members, and the present, what we’ve accomplished and that others can see the potential for our program. I can’t wait to have a place to brag about! Coach Heath definitely deserves it. It’s been his dream for so long and now it’s coming true for us as well.”

The new facility will be used not just for varsity practices and games but to host tournaments that will promote and advertise OC through the sport of softball, Heath said.

RGroup Inc. of Choctaw, owned by OC alumnus and former basketball student-athlete Dillon Ripley, will be the primary contractor on the project.

“What this will do for Oklahoma Christian is set a new standard in athletic facilities at OC,” Allen said. “It raises the bar. We are so thankful to the Lawsons for their generosity in helping this project become a reality.”

OC’s softball program has produced nine All-Americans – including three who received the honor multiple times – and has made two trips to the NAIA national tournament under Heath, the only head coach in the program’s history. The Lady Eagles finished 35-17 this past season.

The construction of the new stadium comes as OC prepares to enter a new phase in its athletic history. The university ended its longtime association with the NAIA in June and has applied for membership in NCAA Division II, starting with the 2012-13 academic year.