Kenan Stadium seems to be an imitation of the North Carolina football team this season.
Just as the Tar Heels are missing players due to an NCAA investigation, Kenan Stadium is missing the fieldhouse that flanked the east end zone, in the midst of a $70 million rebuilding campaign they titled the “Blue Zone.”
by the numbers:
48 percent— Percentage of seats the Blue Zone would have to sell over the next 30 years to pay off the construction costs.
$13 million— Amount of donations already raised through one year.
17— Number of suites already sold for the 2011 season.
$0— Amount of money taken from the University for construction throughout the project.
Unlike the football team, this is one project that is going exactly as planned.
“The contractor and subcontractor are doing a phenomenal job,” UNC athletic director Dick Baddour said. “They are working hard, it’s really been exciting to see the progress.”
Baddour said there have been no hiccups in construction, and Rams Club director of tickets and parking Karlton Creech echoed the same sentiment.
“We’re on schedule to be ready for opening day next year,” said Creech, who oversees the construction from the Rams Club side.
Despite the rather unsightly makeshift trailers and steel frame that houses the scoreboard this season, Creech maintains that the construction serves a use.
“Our construction site may be the best marketing tool we have,” Creech said. “The 60,000 people in Kenan during every home game this year can see firsthand the progress.”
The Rams Club, the primary booster club in charge of funding UNC athletics, split the $70 million tab for the renovation, expecting to pay for half of it with private donations and half from ticket sales in the expanded Blue Zone seating area.
After just one year of fundraising, the Rams Club has already raised $13 million and met the five-year goal it set. That puts it almost twice as close to the $35 million dollar price tag than it had planned.
“From the fundraising and sales side, things are going really well,” Rams Club executive director John Montgomery said.
The ongoing NCAA investigation has not dampened donors’ interest, as the donations are continuing to roll in ahead of schedule.
“The one thing about our donor base, we have 28 sports, and our mission has been to fund scholarships for those sports at NCAA-maximum levels for all times,” Montgomery said.
“Our donors really take a broad view of our program, and they are excited about the possibilities.”
Just as donors do not seem deterred by the investigation, neither do those in the athletic department, who maintain that the investigation has done nothing to lessen their excitement for the new building.
“The important thing about this project is that it will touch so many different people,” Baddour said. “When I say it’s an investment into our future, it’s into our 28-sport program and that future.”
“In the scheme and timing of things, we needed to do it.”
The Kenan Fieldhouse, which was built in 1927, was starting to show signs of wear.
“And the old fieldhouse, it was time,” Montgomery said. “The academic area was small, the Olympic sport weight room was small, the roof was leaking. It was just not a good environment. I think this is going to be new and exciting for everyone.”
The other half of the $70 million price tag is contingent on ticket sales in those Blue Zone seats and suites.
Montgomery said the Rams Club has 17 of the 20 suites already sold for next season.
“We need to sell 48 percent of the inventory to finance that $35 million over 30 years,” Creech said. “Having a financial model where you don’t even have to sell half of your seats to make it work is really conservative. We tried to be responsible throughout all the planning in this.”
No matter what happens, the building will not take away any money from the University’s coffers, Creech said.
“There are no plans or it has never been thought of that the University would have to prop us up if it went bad,” Creech said. “We would alter the scope of the project before we did that. We would not build something or try to build it cheaper.”
All of the money that comes in from the Blue Zone tickets above the 48 percent threshold will go into other athletic programs, funding scholarships in Olympic sports and refurbished facilities.
The building will hold a weight room and study facility for Olympic athletes. Titled the Carolina Student-Athlete Center for Excellence, the facility will rival those of any other school in the nation.
“They’ll be on par with the best in the ACC, and nationally,” Creech said.
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