The effort to renovate ISU’s softball field and stadium is built on the idea of women supporting women.

The home field advantage will mean something entirely different to the Redbirds after a $2.5 million upgrade turns the grassy Adelaide Street field into the Melinda Fischer Softball Field at Marian Kneer Softball Stadium.

The facility is being renovated through gifts from women or in honor of women who have been important in someone’s life. A generous gift from Marian Kneer ’49, M.S. ’57, provided the foundation for the complex.

Kneer pioneered the inclusion of women’s sports in the Illinois High School Association in the 1970s, two years prior to the passage of the Title IX Education Amendment. The Peoria native was called the “world’s greatest softball catcher” in the late 1950s. Kneer, now of Plainfield, was named to the ISU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1976 and the College of Education Hall of Fame in 2004.

The upgraded facilities will have seating for 1,000, including 400 chair backs and 600 bleachers. Synthetic turf, sunken dugouts to improve spectator views, a media suite, event management suite, and heated dugouts with restrooms are also planned.

“Our team takes a lot of pride in their home field, and these improvements will bring a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to the team,” said former team member Shannon Nicolson ’07, M.S. ’09. “Redbird softball is built on tradition, and this is an effort between the administration, alumni, players, and fans that represents everything we’re about.”

The current Redbird Softball Complex has served as the team’s home for 11 years, said Melinda Fischer, ’72, M.S. ’75 who is ending her 26th season with more than 800 wins. The complex replaced historic McCormick Field, home of the Redbirds for 31 years.

“A new look will bring a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to the team. This was something we needed to do to keep us competitive,” said Fischer, who has more wins than any other Illinois State coach in history.

Her love of the game started before she became head softball coach in 1986. As a student-athlete, she helped lead the Redbirds to a second place finish in the 1969 Women’s College World Series. She is a two-time inductee into the Illinois State University Athletics Hall of Fame.

She and the team are eager to take to the new and improved stadium, which could be completed by next spring. Donations are being sought for the project. For more information send an e-mail to Senior Associate Athletics Director Leanna Bordner at or call (309) 438-3639.