Florida Ballpark’s playing surface named Alfred A. McKethan Field

View from the pressbox at the new Florida Ballpark. [Pat Dooley/Staff]

Florida’s new baseball stadium will carry over a name from the old park on campus.

Florida Ballpark’s playing surface will be known as Alfred A. McKethan Field. The University Athletic Association honored the namesake of McKethan Stadium, as the University of Florida Board of Trustees approved the decision.

“The McKethan family name has been synonymous with Gators Baseball for decades, and it is only fitting that the name will continue to have a presence at our new ballpark,” UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said in a school news release. “We are very appreciative of their longtime generosity and support of the program, and we look forward to the next chapter of Gators Baseball.”

Mr. McKethan’s family name became synonymous with Florida Baseball in 1987, when he led the fundraising efforts for $2.4 million worth of construction and refurbishment costs – which included a 2,500-seat grandstand with 800 chair backs, a new press box, concession stands, and restrooms – around Perry Field (the Gators’ home ballpark since 1949). McKethan, who was chairman of the board of Brooksville’s Sun Bank & Trust at the time, presented the University Athletic Association with just over 10,000 shares of Sun Bank stock, which amounted to a $500,000 donation. Matching funds from the state and McKethan’s fellow Bull Gator Club members covered the remaining costs.

Mr. McKethan, a major benefactor to the University of Florida in many ways throughout his lifetime, also donated $300,000 in the fall of 1996, which allowed the UAA to rebuild McKethan Stadium’s press box.

Those construction projects, among other renovations following the program’s first season at McKethan Stadium in 1988, made “The Mac” one of the best stadiums in college baseball. When Baseball America released a list of the Best College Baseball Stadiums in its January 1998 magazine issue, McKethan Stadium was ranked No. 7 nationally and No. 1 in the state of Florida.

“Our entire family greatly valued an opportunity to participate in this exciting project to further support Gators Baseball,” said Jimmy Kimbrough, McKethan’s grandson. “(Our family) is extremely pleased UF has decided Alfred McKethan’s commitment to his alma mater and Gators baseball will not be forgotten.”

Work on the estimated $65-million Florida Ballpark is expected to conclude later this month, and demolition of McKethan Stadium is tentatively scheduled for July.