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Innovation

Home Field: Kentucky Proud Park, University of Kentucky

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For 50 years, University of Kentucky (UK) baseball fans watched their team play in Cliff Hagan Stadium, a much-loved ballpark that by the 2010s was also quite dated. In 2019, the university unveiled a new Kentucky Proud Park, a $49 million stadium featuring an array of modern amenities, including training facilities, suites, and the eighth largest video board in college baseball, for players, coaches, and fans to enjoy.  

Photo Courtesy UK Athletics Galleries

Besides building a great baseball stadium, UK sought to do so in an environmentally responsible way. During the ballpark’s construction, a third of the building’s materials contained recycled substances, and more than 40% of the materials came from within 500 miles of the Lexington, KY-based university. Additionally, the builders diverted more than 75% of on-site construction waste from landfills. 

Kentucky Proud Park’s design also included several eco-friendly elements. Potable water consumption dropped by 30% at the new stadium. The playing field is composed of AstroTurf, cutting maintenance and water usage. State-of-the-art lighting and a heating/cooling system, including variable refrigerant volume controls, conserve electricity. Overall, energy usage decreased by approximately a third. 

The emphasis on sustainability in constructing the stadium was impressive enough to be honored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). In 2019, the USGBC awarded the ballpark with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for new construction. The organization recognized UK for “implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions aimed at achieving high performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.” 

The Kentucky Proud Park joined the football stadium, Kroger Field, and the Joe Craft Football Training Facility as UK’s LEED-recognized sports facilities. In hailing the stadium as “one of the most outstanding venues in college baseball, both in its amenities and in the sustainability of its design and construction,” Kentucky’s Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart commented that “we are proud to see that fact recognized with LEED certification and thankful to our construction partners who made that possible.” 

Greg Hosfield of RossTarrant Architects, UK’s architectural partners on this project, stated: “UK Athletics and the university have been great partners for sustainable design … LEED accreditation was important to the university, and it is great to see the stadium reducing energy use on campus.”

Kentucky Proud Park’s name also presents a unique and unusual sustainable-living message. “Kentucky Proud” is the name of a Kentucky Department of Agriculture program launched two decades ago, known originally as “Kentucky Fresh,” to raise awareness for the state’s farmers and farm products.

Agriculture has long been a major industry in Kentucky, although the number of small family farms has fallen recently, making Kentucky Proud’s mission all the more critical. The Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB), an independent organization, bought the stadium’s naming rights, so no taxpayer dollars were used in the deal. KFB then chose to promote the Kentucky Proud program by using it as the ballpark’s name. 

Photo Courtesy UK Athletics Galleries

The name, furthermore, reflects a deeper — if perhaps not well-known beyond the UK world —  connection between university and farmers. As UK President Eli Capilouto explained, “Agriculture is the backbone of Kentucky’s economy. And it is part of the very foundation of what this university has been part of for more than 150 years. We were, in fact, created to help sustain and strengthen Kentucky’s farm economy. This partnership — among UK Athletics, the Dept. of Agriculture, and the Kentucky Farm Bureau — is a powerful symbol to those ties and our shared commitment to the Commonwealth.” Kentucky Proud Park, consequently, refers not only to the university’s pride in its new ballpark and its baseball team but also in its pride in Kentucky’s home-grown farm economy.

And what about old Cliff Hagan Stadium? While its fate is still to be determined, the historic ballpark was recently the focus of an event with some sustainability significance. In May 2022, there was an auction for various pieces of the old stadium. Segments of the outfield, the scoreboard, light, foul poles, and infield turf were all purchased instead of being bulldozed down and hauled off to a landfill. The sale prices were somewhat reasonable too. The scoreboard sold for less than $75; however, the buyers were responsible for transporting their newly acquired items. 

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