Sunday marked the first time a ceremonial “first pitch” was thrown prior to a baseball game at Barton Community College’s Lawson-Biggs Field. Cougar booster Rob Bowman was given the honor to mark the construction of the new Bowman Family Press Box,
Former Barton administrator Darnell Holopirek said calling the two-story brick building a “press box” really doesn’t do it justice.
“It’s a facility,” she said.
A plaque on the building reads, “In appreciation of the vision, foresight, and generosity of the Rob and Kelly Bowman Family.”
The original press box was a one-story wooden structure with two windows facing the baseball diamond. Its location made it impossible for fans to sit behind home plate and get a clear view of the game, said Holopirek. As the college’s executive director of institutional advancement, her responsibilities included working with the BCC Foundation and prospective donors.
Rob and Kelly Bowman were interested in the project. The family has a long history of support for baseball in Great Bend, said Coleen Cape from the BCC Foundation office.
“Rob Bowman is very passionate about baseball, especially baseball at Barton,” Cape said.
Kelly is the daughter of Danny and Darlene Biggs, longtime BCC supporters. Danny and Darlene also had two sons, Craig and Kim. BCC baseball coach Brent Biggs is the son of Craig and Jolene Biggs.
Rob and Kelly’s son Jace Bowman played baseball for Coach Mike Warren at BCC through the 2013-2014 school year, and has moved on to the University of Central Oklahoma.
Craig and Kim played baseball at Great Bend High School and for the American Legion Teams in the summer, Cape noted. “Both were excellent ball players.” Even as adults Rob Bowman and Craig Bigg played slow pitch baseball for teams in Great Bend for many years.
A major undertaking
However, plans for the new facility went far beyond throwing up a wooden “box.” It has heating and air conditioning, lights, electricity and a sound system. It is constructed of brick, matching other buildings on campus. Windows on the ground floor can be opened, which means it could also serve as a concession building. The lower level is wheelchair accessible, with a long concrete ramp leading to the door.
A project of this magnitude was more than one family could afford, but Holopirek knew better than to turn down a potential donor’s offer to support the college.
“I got really excited about it,” she said. “Rob said, ‘I’m willing to donate if the college will help,’”
Eventually, the press box became a tribute to community support.
“It all came together,” Holopirek said.
Donors of materials and services included C.V. Cale Inc.; DMA Architects PA; Kansas Brick & Tile; Suchy Construction; Great Bend Redi-Mix; Sutherland Lumber; Jimlo Glass and Meitner Masonry. The college also pitched in, with services that included tearing down the old building. On the list of contributors are Mark Dean and the Barton Maintenance and IT departments, as well as Holopirek and the Barton Community College Foundation Office.
Holopirek retired in 2014. Rob Dove has been serving as the interim director of institutional advancement while the college searches for her replacement. Both attended Sunday’s dedication.
“This project was very close to (Darnell’s) heart and she did a great deal of the legwork to solicit gift-in-kind donations to make this happen,” Cape said.
Women’s locker room
Dove and Holopirek were also able to tour another building at the Lawson-Biggs Field on Sunday. The locker room for softball players used to be nothing more than an empty room where women could store their purses during games. The Barton Foundation paid for materials, and furnished the room with carpet, couches, a refrigerator and a microwave oven. Softball Coach Marc Benjamin said the father of teammate Lili Ertmann, Brad Ertmann from Sandy, Utah, built the wooden lockers.
“This is pro!” Dove said Sunday as he studied the room.