The tweet was in some ways more euphemistic than a true statement of purpose.
It’s not exactly that South Carolina’s Beckham Field was constructed specifically to host NCAA Tournament softball games, as one might read Gamecocks executive associate athletics director Charles Bloom’s tweet. Rather, a facility like the one built five years ago facilitates the kind of program building and recruiting that ultimately leads to teams earning national seeds.
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Either way, Gamecocks softball coach Beverly Smith will take it.
“I believe that,” Smith said. “When we designed the stadium in 2013, we had all that in mind. We wanted it to meet all the TV criteria, the hosting criteria. And I really do think we have one of the finest facilities in the country. So I’m excited. But I’m excited for our players to be here, to be in front of our fans and just have that Gamecocks vibe behind us.”
Her Gamecocks will host UNC Greensboro on Friday at 7:30 p.m., following Liberty-Hofstra at 5. It’ll be the NCAA Tournament christening of the place, as USC hasn't hosted since 2007 and hasn'thosted as a No. 1 seed since 2002.
But unlike many NCAA events, the stadium won’t be whitewashed to look more “neutral.”
“They send us banners,” director of operations, event management and sport camps Megan Kennington said. “We’re also going to put the red, white and blue bunting up, make it feel special like they do at baseball.”
Kennington, who also handled the women’s basketball regionals the school has hosted the past six years, said the Gamecocks can leave their logos on the field. Her biggest challenge has been transforming spaces that aren’t set up for the sorts of things they’ll see this weekend.
An example would be turning a small team room, where the Gamecocks usually eat a pregame meal, into a mandated media work room.
“It’s just adjusting for a different level of activity,” Kennington said. “But we’re excited about it.”
South Carolina does have the advantage that while it has not hosted a softball regional in a while, it has hosted plenty of others, meaning the logistics and facilities changes are at least somewhat familiar.
Bloom pointed out, in the past three years, that’s included soccer, tennis, baseball and women’s basketball, with a long recent history with the latter two.
“I’ve had some experience,” Kennington said. “Done women’s soccer. We did tennis last week. I did chat with my boss who handles baseball, which is the best way to equate what we’re about to walk into.
“We’ve all been trading tips to make sure we’re ready.”
Bloom called it a tremendous opportunity to host out-of-town guests. There are logistics with one team flying and two driving, hotels, though the two closer teams, Liberty and UNCG, have been to USC before.
The biggest challenge might be battling weather, as rain is a constant threat in South Carolina this time of year, and the teams have until 11 p.m. Monday to finish up.
School being out helps on the parking front, and Bloom noted the stadium staff doesn’t have to clear fans out between games like at some NCAA events with multiple daily sessions.
This opportunity to host represents for USC the culmination of something. It’s wasn’t the only goal for Beckham Field, but it was part of it, as a team can recruit and build toward what it’s become.
“It’s a source of great pride for us,” Bloom said. “In terms of you build facilities to give your programs an opportunity to compete for championships at the highest level.”