Due to unforeseen delays, the North Carolina men’s and women’s lacrosse teams will not begin their 2019 seasons on a renovated Fetzer Field next month.
Instead, both teams will hold their home games in Kenan Memorial Stadium to start the year, and the athletic department is “very, very confident” that the teams will transition to playing at Fetzer Field during the season, according to Mike Bunting, assistant athletic director for facility planning and management.
Though Bunting did not give a concrete date for the completion of the Fetzer Field renovation project, he told The Daily Tar Heel that the project is “within weeks” of being finished.
The Fetzer Field project, which began in May 2017, is one of three projects that was expected to be done in August of 2018, along with an indoor football practice facility and a new field hockey stadium — now called Karen Shelton Stadium — at Ehringhaus Field. Though those projects both were completed — the football facility wrapped up in November, and the field hockey stadium finished on schedule in August — the Fetzer Field renovation project is yet to be finished.
Bunting cited unforeseen underground conditions and months of wet weather as reasons for the delay.
“It’s been a very difficult site to work on with all the rock and unforeseen conditions,” Bunting said. “You really don’t know exactly what’s under there until you start digging, and it was a messy job.”
Additionally, the cost of the football practice facility and the renovation of Fetzer Field was raised 22 percent as of July 2017, according to the News and Observer. The price was initially expected to be $55 million, but rose to more than $67 million. Bunting confirmed that $67 million is still the expected cost, and that that number was reported to the UNC-system Board of Governors.
In the fall of 2018, both the men’s and women’s soccer teams were forced to hold most of their home games off campus for the second consecutive year, with the majority being played in Cary at WakeMed Soccer Park. Only a handful of soccer games were held in Chapel Hill last season — four for the women’s team and one for the men’s team, all at Finley Fields South.
Now, both UNC lacrosse teams will face similar circumstances, again hosting games at Kenan Memorial Stadium until the Fetzer Field project is completed.
"I think all the teams that will be playing in the new lacrosse/soccer facility are thrilled for when that project is complete,” said Joe Breschi, men’s lacrosse head coach. “We are beyond excited to get in there, but we also understand the importance of it being done the right way and having the patience of the programs, the soccers in the fall and the lacrosses in the spring, to have that filled."
Women’s lacrosse head coach Jenny Levy was also reached for comment, but did not respond.
“Within athletics, communication is constant,” Bunting said. “Certainly we’re disappointed that we weren’t able to get our soccer teams in, and we’re disappointed that we’re not going to open play in our lacrosse seasons, but there’s almost daily, certainly weekly communication with everybody involved. You manage expectations throughout the process.”
“One thing we all feel really, really good about is the quality of the project is just outstanding,” Bunting continued. “The contractor’s done a remarkable job overcoming all the obstacles we’ve had, the design team has been tremendous throughout, and the finished product is going to be spectacular.”
The men’s lacrosse team is coming off a 7-7 season that included wins against Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame. The women’s team, meanwhile, finished 17-4 and won its third consecutive ACC Championship last season.
"We appreciate football allowing us to use it (Kenan Memorial Stadium) and we look forward to the opening of the new facility when it is complete," Breschi said. "It’s going to be the best in the country, so I think we’re all excited about that opportunity."
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