Athletic renovations promise benefits for students, fans
ECU and Pirate Club leaders and donors gathered on a drizzly Thursday afternoon to celebrate construction at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and other athletic facilities that will improve experiences for student-athletes and fans alike.
“Is it a great day to be a Pirate or what?” said Kieran Shanahan, chairman of the East Carolina University Board of Trustees, as construction crews with welding torches worked on the stadium a few yards away. Other speakers thanked the work of the Pirate Club and ECU supporters for their work to raise $30 million toward the project so far.
“What you’re really investing in is the future of this great university, and you’re investing in your student-athletes, and for that I am truly grateful,” said ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton.
At Dowdy-Ficklen, the $60 million project (up from the original estimate of $55 million) will create 1,000 premium seats in a four-story structure that will house a new club level, suites and loge boxes. The fourth level will house a new press box and game-day operations center. The structure will span the top of the south-side seats between the 15-yard lines and should be complete by the 2019 football season. Overall stadium capacity will remain at approximately 50,000.
In the Ward Sports Medicine Building, the football locker room and team meeting areas, athletics training headquarters and the equipment room will be modernized and expanded, and a football team lounge is being built. Those improvements are expected to be completed by August, said Jeff Compher, ECU director of athletics.
The ECU Athletics Ticket Office will be moved and team locker rooms added to Scales Field House. A new indoor hitting facility beside Clark-LeClair Stadium will benefit the baseball and softball teams.
An 8,000-square-foot open area is also planned between the west end zone and the Murphy Center to provide close-up viewing of on-field action.
ECU alumnus and longtime media personality Henry Hinton said the new press box is much-needed. The previous one opened in 1977.
“When it first went up there, we thought we were working in the Taj Mahal because what we were working in before was like a high school press box,” Hinton said Thursday. “You had to take a spiral staircase to get up there.”
While the 1977 press box has served well, the demands of television coverage have made an upgrade necessary, Hinton said.
“As time has gone on, there’s no doubt we needed something better,” said Hinton, a former member of the University of North Carolina system Board of Governors. “We need people to leave here and say, ‘That’s a first-class university and first-class operation.’”
Another benefit of the renovation is it will bring money to athletic department coffers, Compher said. Those dollars will help fund other projects, such as an indoor practice facility for football, he said.
“This generates revenue that will allow us to do some of those things along the way,” Compher said. “That’s something I’m excited about.”
And the improvement in the fan and student-athlete experience, and the possible further improvements the renovations will make possible, are vital, Shanahan said.
“The Pirate nation’s biggest challenge is the financial disconnect we have with the other schools in our system,” he said, referring to schools in the UNC system. “We’re outspent by other schools in our conference by an average of $17 million per school. This stadium is going to rank with the best, and the experience inside is going to be great.”
LS3P of Wilmington is the design firm on the project. Goldsboro-based T.A. Loving Co. and Winston-Salem-based Frank L. Blum Construction Co. are the construction managers at risk for the project.
For information about the project, contact the ECU Pirate Club at 252-737-4540 or email@example.com.
Video Link: Watch the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium renovations live