Support The Cats

Rocky and Berenice Miller Park


By Kelly Boutelle Special Contributor

What once was a series of blueprints and artists' renderings is now a beautiful, world-class venue fit for Chicago's Big Ten Team.
A long and rewarding journey will culminate the weekend of April 1-3 when Northwestern baseball hosts the University of Michigan for the opening weekend at the state-of-the-art Rocky and Berenice Miller Park.
"We are very eager for the opening," said Jake Stolley, a senior relief pitcher. "We've been watching the construction progress since the fall, and the excitement for everything, especially our own locker room close to the field, has been building."

Now that the facility is on the verge of completion, it's easy to get caught up in the architecture and amenities and lose sight of the process and people who made it a reality.  A project of this magnitude never happens without committed donors and the behind-the-scenes dedication of staff, coaches, administrators, architects and construction workers.
Travis Goff, deputy athletic director for development, reflected on the journey.

"We recognize all the dedication and support that went into this effort and realize that this project would not have happened without generous donors and a committed University."

"The project took many twists and turns in terms of design, scope and the fundraising process. Ultimately, the ballpark has turned out ideally—its emphasis is on providing our student-athletes with a world-class experience and a place to call home. The amazing fan amenities and viewing experience that the ballpark offers have combined to make one of the finest college baseball stadiums in the country."
Despite the long road from conception to completion, Goff maintains that the project was destined for success because it was being championed by Richard (McC '53) and Roxy (Comm '53) Pepper.  The stadium is named for Roxy's late father, Dr. J. Roscoe (Rocky) Miller, who was president of Northwestern from 1949 to 1970. Home to Wildcats baseball since 1943, Rocky Miller Park was last renovated in 1983.
In early 2013, the Peppers approached University leadership with a desire to renovate Rocky Miller Park.  They committed the lead gift to the project and hoped it would serve as a challenge to other baseball supporters to step up. 
"Richard and Roxy Pepper have been remarkable champions of Northwestern University and our student-athletes for many years," said Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation. "Their incredible generosity not only rooted this transformational vision in reality, but inspired so many others to come forward and support the project. Without their leadership, we would not be here today. Their devotion is truly inspiring, and we are sincerely grateful."
The Peppers, who met and married as undergraduates at Northwestern, said, "We are proud to be a partner in the new Rocky and Berenice Miller Park. As baseball fans, we are delighted with the new facilities and the opportunity that they bring for our new coach and student-athletes to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten. We are very thankful for all the partners in this endeavor, for they made this project a wonderful success."
There remained a great need for others to make gifts and that effort was only successful due to the Northwestern baseball community committing to support the project. Former student-athletes, across many generations, and area baseball enthusiasts made gifts to the project and a number of those people will be part of the grand opening celebration on April 2. 
Another challenge came with determining the design and functionality of the ballpark.  Two coaching staffs, a number of architects, and months of meetings and design work led to a project that had a goal of providing the best experience possible for student-athletes.
The extensive renovation features Hayden Clubhouse, which holds the beautiful new team locker room, and the Mogentale Players' Lounge - a premium hospitality space and area for baseball student-athletes to gather and bond.  Koldyke Field provides a synthetic surface maximizing practice opportunities and minimizing game delays and cancellations.  Sidney and Mildred LaPidus Dugout has been expanded and renovated to now include heaters. The upgrades also include a new press box, featuring the Canning Family Private Suite, and designated spaces for all forms of media. Upgraded fan amenities are featured throughout the ballpark, including new chairback seating, concessions, restrooms and an LED scoreboard.
Spencer Allen, who was named the 26th head coach in program history on June 14, 2015, said, "Our entire program could not be more thrilled about the incredible commitment that has been made to the future of Northwestern Baseball. 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 supporters who played such an integral role in making this happen, especially Richard and Roxy Pepper."
"It's difficult to fully put into words what Rocky and Berenice Miller Park means for the future of the baseball program," Goff said. "Coach Allen and his staff are already seeing its impact on recruiting and the statement it is making across the country is that Northwestern is very committed to baseball."
Finishing touches are underway leading up to the opening celebration and for Northwestern baseball student-athletes the wait will have been more than worth it. 
"We have been waiting for this day for years and for it to now be a reality is so exciting. We can't wait to open up the amazing new ballpark in front of a full house," said junior Matt Hopfner. "With the completion of the new Rocky and Berenice Miller Park, there is no better all-around student-athlete experience in college baseball."

The dream has become a reality.