You’re Out! UK baseball plays its last season in beloved Cliff Hagan Stadium

President Eli Capilouto, Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart and Head Coach Nick Mingione break ground at the new baseball facility that will take the place of Cliff Hagan Stadium on March 2, 2017, in Lexington, Kentucky. 

Charlee Schaefer

For 50 years, Cliff Hagan Stadium has been the home of the UK baseball team, but the Cats are currently playing their final season there.

Head Coach Nick Mingione often says he wants the team to do something that has never been done before. Next year, the Cats will do something that hasn’t been done in five decades: play somewhere other than the Cliff, in a new stadium that will be one of the premiere collegiate stadiums in the country.

Kentucky is the only team in the SEC to never make an appearance at the College World Series and the building of the new stadium will be a chance for the Cats to get a fresh start and perspective to continue to change the national outlook on the program.

“They (the players) want to play in really great places and they want to have a facility that looks like the rest of their peers’ in the SEC and we feel like this gets us in the neighborhood,” athletic director Mitch Barnhart said.

“I am excited for new beginnings in the program. I think this new stadium is really going to help with recruiting,” junior right-handed pitcher Justin Lewis said. “In the next five years or so, you’re going to see Kentucky baseball is really going to be a nationally known school, from a baseball standpoint and baseball powerhouse, and I think that’s awesome.”


The stadium was built in 1969 as part of the Bernie A. Shively Sports Center sports complex. Also adjacent to the stadium on the same property are the UK track and field facilities.

In 1993, it was renamed Cliff Hagan Stadium after the former UK basketball player, Hall of Famer and former athletic director who played under Adolph Rupp, the fifth winningest coach in men’s NCAA Division 1 history.

The Cliff originally stood at 700 Jerry Claiborne Way, what is now known today as 700 Sports Center Drive.

Renovations on the stadium occurred in 1990, 2002 and 2007. The last renovation, in 2007, saw the largest investment and changes, with the university spending $4.2 million.

The $4.2 million in 2007 included the installment of the 150-capacity area known commonly as “the Cliff” and the parking lot was added to accommodate the growing fan base and appeal to a different crowd. The outfield walls were lowered as well for spectators to be able to see from the outfield. A state-of-the-art video board replaced the old.

“There’s something about the Cliff,” junior right-handed pitcher Sean Hjelle said. “The deck itself will be missed, especially by me. Having those fans out there is pretty awesome for us and the dugout, that’s for sure.”

The university has hosted the NCAA “Lexington” regional twice in history and won for the first time in program history in 2017, taking the team farther than they had ever been. They finished the season just two wins shy of reaching the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

New Stadium

Construction on the new $49 million stadium began in the spring of 2017. It is expected to be completed in August of this year, which will allow the team to move in and begin practice this fall before the start of the 2019 season.

It has yet to be named but will include a berm, suites and a club area and have room for more than 7,000 fans with temporary seating for the post-season.

It will also include cutting-edge facilities for the players, giving them everything they could possibly need in a single facility.

“The new stadium is incredible. The facilities and the resources that the team will have is unbelievable,” Hjelle said.

The stadium will be located off Alumni Drive and will join the “athletic village,” where the John Cropp softball and the Wendell and Vickie Bell soccer facilities are located.

Although it will not be right behind the dorms as the Cliff is, it is sure to draw many students as the baseball program is becoming more significant.

“I just want to remind everybody… This is the Big Blue Nation’s baseball stadium,” Mingione said. “This isn’t just one team’s. This is everybody’s that has ever worn a Kentucky uniform.”


Current and former players are ecstatic about the building of the new facilities and think the addition makes the program even more appealing to fans and prospects alike.

“I have no doubt we can be one of the best programs in the nation,” junior outfielder Tristan Pompey said. “There is no ceiling as to how high they can go.”

One of the most memorable moments in the 2017 regional championship was when UK got the final out and the players raced to the outfield to greet their fans at the Cliff and climb the walls in right-center field.

The attendance records were broken twice during the tournament and the fan support was at an all-time high. The players had never seen anything like it.

“One thing that really stood out to me was the fan support that we got at that regional. It was unbelievable. I had never seen that many people at the Cliff before,” former pitcher and 2017 MLB draftee Zach Logue said. “They were loud, they were cheering us on. I think that definitely helped us push over the edge and win that final game.”

The veteran players are bittersweet as they say goodbye to their old home but are excited to see where the program is going and how the new stadium will draw in crowds and the country’s top prospects in the future.