The home of the Northwestern baseball program, Rocky and Berenice Miller Park, has continued to take shape over the summer as crews have worked tirelessly to create what will be one of the finest ballparks in the country. The facility, which was built in 1943, had not been renovated since 1983 until construction began last fall.
The stadium had been known as Rocky Miller Park, named in honor of former Northwestern University president Dr. J. Roscoe Miller, who served as the University’s leader from 1949 to 1970. The new home for NU baseball will now be known as Rocky and Berenice Miller Park, with the addition of Rocky’s wife. The extensive renovation, located in the heart of the athletics campus, has been made possible thanks to the incredible support of Richard Pepper ’53 and his wife, Roxelyn ’53. Roxelyn (Roxy) is the daughter of Rocky and Berenice Miller. In June 2013, Richard and Roxy Pepper generously pledged $5 million toward the renovations at Rocky Miller Park, and just this month the Barrington, Ill., couple pledged an additional $1.5 million to the project.
Richard Pepper, chairman of The Pepper Companies, of Chicago, received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Northwestern in 1953. Roxy Pepper received a degree in communication sciences and disorders from Northwestern in 1953. The two met and married while undergraduate students at Northwestern. The Peppers have been longtime volunteers and benefactors of NU. Both have served as leaders for several alumni organizations and on their class reunion committee. Roxy Pepper also was a member of Northwestern's Board of Trustees from 1985 to 1989. In 2001, they jointly received Northwestern's Alumni Medal, the highest honor awarded to alumni of the University.
Renovations to the ballpark began during the fall of 2014 with several improvements already in place to benefit both student-athletes and fans. Last spring saw the installation of a new synthetic playing surface, an expanded batter’s eye, a new backstop and spectator safety net and the extension of both the home and visitor dugouts. The newly enlarged and heated dugouts were expanded by 17 feet last spring to enhance the safety and comfort of those on field level.
In addition, the new synthetic turf will greatly reduce the number of practices and games that are impacted by inclement weather. In fact, the Wildcats were able to utilize all of the above new amenities during the final month of the 2015 campaign.
The work is not done yet, however. Since the end of the season, improvement has continued at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park. For the start of the 2016 college baseball season, the facility will also include a brand new concession stand, restrooms, chair-back seating and a press box. The following elements will also be added to the home of the Wildcats thanks to the generosity of so many connected to the Northwestern baseball program:
- The Koldyke Family Field, made possible by Trustee Martin “Mike” Koldyke, his wife Patricia, and former Trustee Laird Koldyke ’83, ’89 MBA and his wife Deirdre ’92 MBA, ’01 MS.
- The Mogentale Family Player’s Lounge, made possible by Eric ’84 and Cindy Mogentale ’84.
- The Hayden Family Locker Room, made possible by Carrie and John Hayden ’79.
- Stevens Plaza (see rendering below), named in honor of former Northwestern head coach Paul Stevens, who served as the program’s leader from 1988-2015.
The brand new Northwestern clubhouse will be nearly 6,000 square feet and it will contain the Mogentale Family Player’s Lounge and the Hayden Family Locker Room. The clubhouse will also include a coaches’ locker room, athletic training room and space for various team-support services.
Upgraded fan amenities will include two separate structures, one featuring a concession stand and men’s restroom that will cover 1,000 square feet, and the other providing a ticket booth and women’s restroom that will cover an additional 1,100 square feet.
A new elevated press box, more than four times larger than the old version, will be added to the facility as well. The new press box will cover 2,300 square feet and house an executive viewing suite, work areas for television and radio broadcasters, print media members and a scoreboard and visual media control room.
This past June, Northwestern Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips named Spencer Allen as the 26th head coach of the Wildcats baseball program. The new ballpark, coupled with the addition of Coach Allen and his staff, promise an exciting future for the NU baseball program.
“Rocky and Berenice Miller Park will provide a world-class facility that will touch every facet of our baseball program,” said Phillips. “There has never been a more promising time in the history of the Northwestern program with the addition of Coach Allen and his talented staff, coupled with the excitement surrounding our new ballpark.”
“The passion of so many who are connected to the Wildcats is inspirational,” said Phillips. “Sincere and heartfelt thanks to Richard and Roxy for their amazing leadership support as well as our wonderful champions who have donated so generously to make this project a reality.”
“Our entire program could not be more thrilled about the incredible commitment that has been made to the future of Northwestern baseball,” said Allen. “Rocky and Berenice Miller Park will undoubtedly give us one of the top facilities not only in the Big Ten Conference, but in the entire country. It is going to help us tremendously in all aspects of the program. We are so grateful to the Wildcats supporters who played such an integral in making this happen, especially Richard and Roxy Pepper.”
If you are interested in supporting the Rocky and Berenice Miller Park renovation and the baseball program, please contact Matt Smith at (847) 467-5289.
To read the original story, visit wewill.northwestern.edu.