Hofstra Softball Stadium has sunken dugouts, sod in the outfield, batting cages, a bullpen and a press box. Now the last and most exciting piece is in place. Lights have been installed and the program, which started in 1951, will host its first night game when it plays St. John's Tuesday at 7.
"We're all really, really excited," senior catcher Laura Valentino of Smithtown said. "When I first saw it, it was kind of a shock. Now when I go on to the field, it feels like they've always been there. It makes the field even better than it already is."
The five stanchions, containing a combined 28 energy-efficient bulbs, were installed in late March.
Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz released $100,000 from the university's capital budget to jump-start the $200,000 project. The team also helped in the fundraising.
"We did a lot of hard work trying to communicate to everyone," Valentino said. "We said, 'We're trying to put up lights and any donations would be appreciated.' My parents donated some money. A lot of alumni pitched in. It was great. It lights a fire in your stomach."
Athletic director Jack Hayes said the university's funding was based in part on the excellence of the program, which has made 12 appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
"At a time when resources are limited, you have to put them in places where you think it will yield the most positive results," he said. "Success has been clearly demonstrated."
Coach Bill Edwards said: "This gives us tremendous options. We can schedule games later. Everybody is working at 3 o'clock, playing or doing other things. We can give them some entertainment at night, see some top Division I softball and still be home by 9."
Hofstra also was motivated by an NCAA regulation instituted in 2009 that requires lights to host a round in its tournament. Hofstra has hosted the tournament four times, most recently in 2008.
The Colonial Athletic Association could be next to require lights. Hayes said it may be "only a matter of time before the conference takes on a similar policy. This certainly protects us." The CAA Tournament has been held at Hofstra eight times.
Hofstra might start ace pitcher Olivia Galati against St. John's. She is 22-6 with a 1.35 ERA for Hofstra (31-10), which has won 24 straight at home dating to last season. That is the second-longest streak in the nation behind that of Missouri, which has won 32 straight.
"We're really pumped up," said Galati, who played for St. John the Baptist. "We've always played under lights somewhere other than our home field. It's just going to be nice to have our own fans. It will be a big celebration."
Edwards believes the pitchers will have an advantage under the lights.
"Just in the optic [yellow] colored ball and nighttime, I think pitching probably goes up 15, 20 percent," he said. "I don't think we see the optic ball at night as well as we see the white ball at night . . . It looks to be quicker, to have a little more hop on it. I just think 'advantage, pitcher.' "