- Lloyd Brown
Reagan Field – Murray State Racers
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.57
Gilbert Graves Cir
Murray, KY 42071
Year Opened: 1989
A Stable Environment
Murray State University is a four-year public university in the small town of Murray, Kentucky, which is located in western Kentucky, just seven miles north of the Tennessee state line. It opened in 1923, and presently has a student body of more than 11,000 students. Its major focuses academically are the School of Education, the School of Business and the College of Science, Technology and Engineering. For 25 straight years, MSU has been recognized as one of the top regional universities in the United States by U.S. News and World Report.
The school’s athletic teams compete under the moniker of the ‘Racers,’ a salute to the Bluegrass State’s predominant position in the horse racing and breeding industries. The ‘racing colors’ of the university are a majestic navy and gold color scheme, and the university has two mascots – a live thoroughbred named Racer One and a costumed mascot named ‘Dunker’ (basketball is the predominant sport on campus, having gone to multiple NCAA regionals over the years). All of the Racer teams compete in the Ohio Valley Conference, which is filled with geographically close rivals, such as Austin Peay, the University of Tennessee-Martin, Tennessee Tech, Belmont University and Southeast Missouri State University.
The Racer baseball program has been in existence since 1924, and has played over .500 baseball within that 92-year span. It has appeared in three NCAA regionals over the years. Home turf for the baseball team is Reagan Field. Named for Racers coaching legend Johnny Reagan, who won more than 700 games in his career with MSU, the field opened in 1989 and features seating for more than 500 fans. Its dimensions are 330 feet to the foul poles, 325 feet to the power alleys and 400 feet to straightaway center field. Fences are only eight feet in height, which leads to many jaw-dropping leaps to rob hitters of home runs from both sides.
Reagan Field underwent major renovations in both 2014 and 2015 to improve the fan and player experience. A new grandstand was erected, which offers chair back seating. Improved lighting was installed, making it possible for the university to offer more doubleheaders and night games, and new dugouts were built for both teams, a major improvement over their predecessors. Additional upgrades include a brand new press box and scoreboard, and a totally new sod infield. The stadium did retain one feature of the original structure by popular demand — terraced seating down both the third and first base lines. Oddly enough, a majority of fans prefer this to the new seating provided.
Food & Beverage 4
Concessions are sold out of a portable trailer brought in before each game. The beverages sold are all Pepsi products (Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper, along with bottled water). All beverages come in a 16-ounce size only and cost $1. The food selections consist of hamburgers, cheeseburgers and hot dogs, which all go for $3. Candy (Reese’s, Hershey’s, M&M’s and 3 Musketeers) all sell for $1 each. The remainder of the menu includes popcorn, sunflowers, peanuts and chips, which all cost $1.00. While the choices are limited, they are offered at prices that cannot be beat.
Murray State’s Reagan Field is the first athletic facility you will see as you enter the campus, but it seems overwhelmed by the adjoining Roy Stewart Stadium, as well as the CFSB Center, home of the Murray State Racers basketball team. You are in Kentucky, and that means the basketball team gets the most attention. Even the school’s mascot, a horse named Dunker, wears a basketball outfit most of the time. The Racers basketball team deserves much of the attention, as it has won 24 OVC championships and appeared in 15 NCAA tournaments.
Reagan Field has great sight lines, as both the bleachers and the terraced areas are elevated above the field, with a great view of the action. There are eight rows of stadium-style seats and eight rows of aluminum bench seating in the bleachers. Persons sitting in the terraced area either bring their lawn chairs or stretch out on beach towels. The stadium announcer stays fairly much on the game and adds related information on upcoming games during lulls in the action.
The Racers have a very well-groomed natural turf field with dimensions of 330 to left, 400 to center and 330 to right. The scoreboard is in left-center and provides only the game line statistics. There are no graphics capabilities.
Reagan Field is in the on-campus athletic complex located at the intersection of Highways US 641 and Kentucky State Highway 121. Just across the highway is the business district of Murray. It is filled with big-box stores and every fast food restaurant you can imagine. There are three lodging options in Murray (Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn and the Best Western University Inn).
For dining; I would suggest Jasmine, Mugsy’s Hideout or The Keg. The Keg has a surprisingly varied menu, including barbecue, seafood and many Cajun options. (The owners originally hail from the Pelican State). These are all locally-owned businesses.
The fan base of the Racers baseball program is basically the parents of the ballplayers, the girlfriends of the players and 10-20 students who are friends of the players. The visiting team on the day we attended, which came from a campus more than 100 miles from Murray State, actually brought more fans with them.
Murray State University is not the easiest location to get to, as it is located more than 30 miles from the nearest interstate (I-24), depending on which way you are coming from. The main road bringing you into Murray from whichever direction will be US 641. You will come to a red light at the Hwy 641/Hwy 121 intersection and turn into the entrance for Murray State University’s athletic complex. You will find free parking at the Roy Stewart Stadium parking lot adjacent to Reagan Field.
Return on Investment 4
Reagan Field receives a high score in this section, not for an outstanding experience, but because it virtually costs nothing to attend a Racer game. There is no admission charged, and the seating options go from stadium seats to stretching out on a beach towel with a great view of the game. Parking is free and adjacent to the field, and the concession prices beat even a fast food restaurant.
One of the best extras for Murray State is the route you take to get there from I-24. This route will take you through the Land Between the Lakes Nature and Recreation area. Most of the 30 miles between I-24 and Murray are included within this park. The two lakes combined, Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, have a combined shoreline of more than 3,000 miles. The land mass between them offers boating, fishing, a wildlife preserve for bison and elk and some terrific scenery.