Gaston College will begin hosting games at Sims Legion Park this week
Baseball returns to Sims Legion Park on Saturday.
This time, it will be the Gaston College Rhinos who will inhabit the historic Gastonia baseball stadium. The Rhinos will face Catawba Valley Community College at the Old Ballpark at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s exciting to see how the addition of college sports has impacted the community,” said Gaston College President John Hauser, adding that he hopes the community will fill the stands in support of the local team.
Sims Legion Park was previously home to minor league professional baseball from 1959 to 1992, and most recently the former Gastonia Grizzlies of the Coastal Plain League. The college wooden bat summer league affiliate called the stadium home from 2002-19.
Gaston College began its inaugural baseball season with a sensational 15-0 winning streak. The team has been playing matches since February 2.
“It’s really good to see the team even get a national ranking for their first season,” Hauser said.
Prior to this year, the school had not had an active athletics program for the past 50 years.
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Hauser came to Gaston College as president in June 2020 and said he heard almost immediately from the community, staff and students that they wanted more opportunities for the sport.
In November 2020, the school’s board of trustees approved a proposal for an athletics program, which allowed sports teams to be hosted across the school.
These sports include women’s cross country, women’s beach volleyball, basketball, baseball and women’s softball.
“Being able to use Sims Park is going to bring a lot more opportunities for the school and for the community,” Hauser said.
Some of the park’s renovations include renovating the locker room, concessions area, and replacing natural grass with synthetic grass, Hauser said.
“We’re just thrilled to see everyone coming out and supporting,” Hauser said. “We will also be selling college items like hats, sweatshirts and shirts.”
Gaston College students will also have the chance to participate in the games thanks to the school’s broadcast and production technology program led by program instructor Kate Carmody.
Students will use multiple cameras during sports games to cover many angles of the event, report scores and game updates. Games are streamed on the school app.
The games are also free and will have food trucks present for the community.
“We want to support our local businesses in any way we can,” Hauser said.
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Women’s softball and baseball teams will use the park once renovations are complete. In the future, Hauser hopes to bring more sports to the field like the women’s beach volleyball team and a soccer team and organize regional and national sports tournaments.
“We also want to create local youth leagues with our players to encourage them to go to college and play ball if they really want to,” Hauser said.
Gaston College will pay the City of Gastonia $20,000 per year for use of the stadium under an eight-year lease.
The college will not use state or county funds to fund the lease. Instead, it will use income from school bookstores, vending machines and sports funds.
Contact Janiya Winchester at 704-869-1842 or [email protected]