To comply with a new Big West Conference rule as well as to improve facilities for baseball and softball teams, the UCSB Athletics Dept. has announced plans to replace two old batting cages and expand a third.

A new rule in the Big West Conference for the 2007 season mandates that all softball teams have two batting cages. To meet this demand, the softball team will use the existing baseball batting cage, in addition to a new cage expansion on the far right field line of the baseball stadium, said Bobby Castagna, associate athletics director. The baseball team will use two soon to be completed cages and bullpens located by the visiting team bullpen.

Construction recently began on the site, and Castagna said the university hopes to complete the project in a month.

“We’re hoping to finish by the end of February,” Castagna said, “But weather plays a big role in it.”

Director of Athletics Gary Cunningham estimated that the project, which is being managed by Investec, will cost $300,000. He said the funds came from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

The existing batting cages, located on the western edge of campus near Stadium Road, are about 20 years old and were in need of repair, Cunningham said.

The two currently existing batting cages along the right field foul line will be demolished completely and replaced with a batting cage, bullpen facility and a storage area for the rolling backstop. The partially enclosed facility will include electricity for pitching machines.

In addition, the project will expand a batting cage located between the baseball and softball fields by about 1,018 square feet. This cage will not have lights or power.

Baseball player Robbie Blauer said the partially enclosed batting cages would allow the teams to practice during inclement weather.

“It will be amazing,” Blauer, a fourth-year sociology major, said. “We’ll have two covered cages and two covered mounds. We can practice in the rain.”

Head Assistant Baseball Coach Tom Myers said in an e-mail that the new facilities will help UCSB attract top athletes.

“This addition to our facility will aid us in recruiting some of the best prospects in the country,” Myers said. “[It will] allow our current players opportunities to enhance their game during inclement weather and to get work at anytime around their busy class schedules.”