The 5,200-seat venue in Jackson, Mississippi, will host the conference championship for the next three years beginning in 2023
JACKSON, Mississippi — Today, Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) Commissioner Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes announced that baseball is returning to the league as a sponsored sport, and along with this news, the Hank Aaron Sports Academy (HASA) was going to serve as the host site for the GCAC 2023 Hope Credit Union (HOPE) Baseball Championship.
Formerly known as Smith-Wills Stadium and former home of the NY Mets and Houston Astros MLB/MiLB teams, the 5,200-seat venue in Jackson, Mississippi will host the league’s premier baseball event for the next three seasons from 2023, with an option to extend the stay at the famous venue for another two seasons thereafter.
“Baseball is a top sport in our region, and for years we’ve had teams in our league qualify for the HBCU World Series without having had a chance to win a conference title until today. today,” Barnes said. “Through the Hank Aaron Sports Academy and the Hope Credit Union, our student-athletes will have the chance to showcase their talents and the best of black college baseball in a historic location.”
Originally opened in 1975, the stadium has hosted professional baseball as well as music concerts. With the addition of FieldTurf, the site has been converted into a true multi-purpose facility, capable of hosting a variety of sports and events, including football and soccer.
“This is yet another great opportunity for the city of Jackson, MS., as well as all GCAC student-athletes, we were very fortunate to be selected as hosts and look forward to a long-term relationship. long-term and mutually beneficial with the GCAC,” said HASA President and CEO Tim Bennett. “The financial impact of this tournament will certainly be appreciated here in the capital as we continue to grow and improve. with the assistance of Commissioner Kiki Baker Barnes and the CCGA.
HASA is designed to accommodate young people from economically disadvantaged areas of Mississippi and the Southeastern region of the United States. The academy is home to Jackson Public High School baseball, the Atlanta Braves RBI program, and a number of other youth initiatives (summer/fall youth leagues) as part of Henry “Hank” Aaron’s mission.
“The economic, social and cultural contributions of HBCUs and their graduates cannot be overstated,” said Bill Bynum, CEO of HOPE. “We are especially proud to partner with GCAC and the Hank Aaron Sports Academy to build on this legacy.”
HOPE is the official financial institution of the GCAC and the title sponsor of the league’s basketball and baseball tournaments. HOPE also works with GCAC member schools to advance economic opportunities for students, staff, faculty, alumni and to improve conditions on and around their campuses.