Melissa Cook Stadium
Purpose: Practice & Competition
Dimensions: 200 ft. left field/ 220 ft. center field /200 ft. right field
Square Footage: 7,505 gross, 1,994 assigned
Date Opened: April 12, 2008
Surface Type: Hilltopper Stabilizer synthetic dirt, bluegrass sod field
Number of Batting Cages: 4
First Game: BIG EAST contest vs Villanova on April 13, 2008 (1-4; 10-5)
Cost: $4.9 million
The Notre Dame family celebrates the life of one of its own each time the softball team steps foot onto Melissa Cook Stadium.
The Irish unveiled their new playing facility during a ceremony on April 12, 2008. University president Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., blessed the site which will house the Irish softball program for years to come, and remarks were given by former athletics director Dr. Kevin White, head softball coach Deanna Gumpf, (then) senior captain Katie Laing, Lisa Hoffman and Paul and Linda Demo. The Demos, parents of Melissa Cook, also helped bless a bronze relief of the former Irish player that sits just inside the main entrance of the stadium.
Cook, a 1994 Notre Dame graduate, was one of four people involved in a March 2002 construction accident at the John Hancock Building in Chicago that claimed their lives. The families of the departed reached a settlement with the skyscraper’s owners and other companies named in a joint lawsuit. Paul and Linda Demo contributed a considerable amount of their portion of the settlement as a gift to Notre Dame and to the Melissa Cook Memorial Foundation, established to provide scholarship assistance to students in Northwest Indiana.
Raised in Merrillville, Ind., Cook played for the Fighting Irish softball team in 1991 and 1992, seeing time at second base, shortstop and catcher. She led the team in triples as a freshman and earned a monogram before opting to study abroad one year later. An accounting major, she earned her bachelor’s degree and was the controller for Teamsters Union Local 786 prior to her death.
She was a standout athlete in high school, excelling in basketball, volleyball and softball. When Notre Dame offered her a scholarship to play softball, she had achieved a lifelong dream.
Notre Dame broke ground on the stadium in April of 2007 on the same weekend the University celebrated 35 years of women’s athletics. Melissa Cook Stadium, a $4.9 million state-of-the-art facility, sits on the southeast corner of the Notre Dame campus near Eck Baseball Stadium. It features a brick/stucco exterior structure along with a state-of-the-art Musco lighting system. The stadium features home and visitor lockers rooms as well as heated dugouts. The field at Cook Stadium is a Bluegrass field with Hilltopper Stabilizer synthetic dirt for the infield. The field also utilizes a complete field drainage system to a series of drywells in order to help with rain and excess water. In terms of player and coach features, the stadium contains a coach’s gameday office, training rooms, Umpire’s locker rooms, as well as a spacious press box with exclusive areas for media and guests.
With its Wi-Fi capabilities, family picnic lawns, chair back and bleacher seating, concessions area, interior restrooms and its common area,, the new Cook Stadium is a very fan-friendly place to enjoy a softball game.
More than 100 members of the Irish softball family attended the dedication of the Charles and Marie Doherty Batting Cages in the fall of 2011. The batting cages are named after Linda Demo’s parents – Charles and Marie Doherty – who attended numerous Notre Dame softball games during Cook’s career with the Irish in 1991 and 1992.
Since opening in April 2008, Melissa Cook Stadium has been the scene of over 100 Notre Dame victories and was home to the 2009, 2010 (regular season), 2011 (regular season), and 2013 (regular season) BIG EAST Conference champions. The stadium has also welcomed a pair of postseason tournaments to its grounds, serving as the host site of the 2012 BIG EAST Conference Championship and the 2015 NCAA South Bend Regional. The 2015 South Bend Regional marked just the second time in program history that Notre Dame hosted a regional pod of the NCAA Championship.