Renovations may come to Smith Center
Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham has expressed interest in polishing UNC’s biggest monument to the now 82-year-old former basketball coach Dean Smith.
In an interview with The (Raleigh) News & Observer published Sunday, Cunningham expressed interest in renovating the Smith Center.
At 27 years old, little has changed since it was built. A few video boards have been added in the last decade, along with some new seats near the court and a redone floor — but it’s largely the same.
Cunningham mentioned to the paper the possibility of adding luxury suites. This is a common feature at other national college arenas, such as at the University of Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center.
But athletic department officials are still talking in hypotheticals.
“We are just beginning to put our thoughts together on various concepts,” Cunningham said in an email Tuesday.
If the renovations were to take place, there would be two paths forward, said Martina Ballen, the senior associate athletic director who acts as the department’s chief financial officer.
The first path would be for the department to foot the bill, as it did for the renovation of Carmichael Arena in 2010.
For that project, UNC raised the athletic fee to help pay the debt required for construction, Ballen said.
The other path would be for the Rams Club to step in with funding like it did for the 3,000-seat addition to Kenan Memorial Stadium known as the Blue Zone.
In that case, Ballen said boosters would lease the Smith Center’s land from the University, make the desired changes, then hand it back to school when the project was done.
Cunningham also mentioned in the interview that he was interested in sprucing up Fetzer Field, home of the soccer, lacrosse, and track and field programs, before he got started on renovations for the Smith Center.
“The one thing that needs help right now is Fetzer,” Cunningham told the N&O.
Fetzer Field was constructed in 1935 as a facility for the track and field teams, and it has been home to the men’s soccer team since 1947. Its last major renovation — the addition of aluminum bleachers, lights and other amenities along with a reworking of the playing surface — was in 1988.
Women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance confirmed that he had discussed a possible Fetzer Field renovation with Cunningham.
Karlton Creech, capital projects director for the Rams Club, said booster involvement with the project would depend on its size and scope, as well as how much interest it could generate in the club.
Men’s soccer coach Carlos Somoano said he was excited for a potential upgrade.
“When it does come, it will be something great for our program,” he said.
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