Eichelberger Field / Martin Softball Complex
Eichelberger Field is one of the premier softball facilities in the country. Built into the side of a hill overlooking Florida Avenue in Urbana, the stadium provides great sight lines and seating for 1,500 fans. The fence measures 200 feet from home plate to the corner foul lines and is 210 feet from home to the center field fence. An inning-by-inning scoreboard overlooks the left-center field fence. Additionally, a state-of-the-art clubhouse, press box, concession stand, restrooms and ticket office create a family-friendly environment for the entire Illinois softball community.
Thanks to the generosity of Lila Jeanne "Shorty" and the late Paul Eichelberger, the Illinois softball stadium became a reality in 2001.
Eichelberger Field's groundbreaking took place on April 15, 2000. Associate Athletics Director Karol Kahrs introduced Mrs. Eichelberger and spoke of the couple's long-time support of the university. Shorty's interest in the advancement of women's athletics and Paul's association with the game of softball made the Eichelberger Field project a natural. Through a major deferred gift, in addition to ongoing annual gifts, Eichelberger honored the memory of her husband, Paul, a fast-pitch softball player known throughout Illinois, with the construction of Eichelberger Field. Today, the field stands as a tribute to Paul and has allowed his passion for softball to become a reality for student-athletes at the University of Illinois.
The nearly $2 million project included a sand-based field, irrigation, lighting, batting cages/bullpens, a scoreboard, in-ground dugouts, and a temporary press box.
The Eichelberger Field dedication took place on March 27, 2001, in conjunction with the Illini's home opener against Valparaiso University. As was fitting, "Shorty" Eichelberger threw out the first pitch, a strike to catcher Janna Sartini. That day, Sarah Baumgartner nailed the first home run in stadium history and Kathryn Nevard tossed a no-hitter as the Illini posted two shutouts.
In 2007, Illinois received a $1 million donation from the Rex & Alice Martin Foundation to complete the final phase of the softball complex. The phase included the construction of a permanent press box, rest rooms, a ticket booth, permanent concessions and a clubhouse for the Illini softball team. The clubhouse features team locker rooms, players' lounge, equipment room, sports medicine training room, weight training and conditioning room, and coaches' locker room.
The Rex & Alice A. Martin Foundation is a private charitable foundation that funds major projects for young people. "The University of Illinois changed my life," said Alice Martin, Co-Founder and President of the Foundation who received her MBA from Illinois. "Most of my success I owe to the University and their wonderful MBA program. It's a great honor to be able to assist the University with the new softball stadium. I am looking forward to working with my alma mater on many educational enrichment projects in the future."
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