OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 9, 2013) – Longtime Oklahoma Christian coach Tom Heath had simple words of praise on Saturday night for Ricky and Kelly Lawson, whose major gift resulted in the construction of what is inarguably one of the nation’s finest small-college softball facilities.
“They’re our heroes,” Heath said to a crowd of about 200 people gathered outside Tom Heath Field at Lawson Plaza for the facility’s dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
What began as a dream during the mid-1990s, when OC started its softball program with Heath as coach, now is reality. The sparkling $3.9 million stadium has most everything a softball team could need, and then some.
The stadium – built by a company owned by OC alumnus and former basketball player Dillon Ripley – features a team locker room with wood lockers, coaches’ offices, training rooms, meeting rooms, a players’ lounge, permanent restrooms, a press box, permanent seating, an indoor training facility, outdoor lighting and a 34-vehicle parking lot.
The playing surface is entirely artificial turf and there are bullpens and batting cages for both home and visiting teams. The scoreboard in center field also has a graphics display.
“I get asked all the time why it’s important that Oklahoma Christian has these kinds of athletic facilities,” Athletic Director Curtis Janz said. “I can give you the answers of how it sets a standard of excellence, it helps us in recruiting, it helps us in retention, it helps us win games. All those things are really important.
“But to tell you the truth, a facility like this is a vessel, and a vessel that Jesus uses to reach our student-athletes. This is about these young ladies that are behind me. They’re here for four years and their experiences are what we worry about every single day. This facility, this softball field, this locker room, is a vessel that Jesus will use to further His kingdom with these young women behind me.”
OC President John deSteiguer said the new stadium will be great for the university’s image, for OC’s softball players and for players from teams that will face the Lady Eagles.
“This is very, very special for the university,” he said.
He said it was appropriate that the stadium be named after Heath.
“It was an easy decision,” deSteiguer said. “Tommy really did begin the program and then he has matured it all the way through over the years. He’s done such a great job that Ricky and Kelly really fell in love, not just with the softball program, but also with him. They clearly wanted to make sure he was honored with this. That was a no-brainer for the university.”