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Plans for new athletic complex gaining momentum

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 01:02


Opened in 1936, Cowell Stadium could undergo significant renovations costing $25 million.

The University of New Hampshire needs to raise $5 million to complete the funding of a $25 million athletic complex. UNH Athletic Director Marty Scarano said he’s confident that UNH will be able to raise these funds in time to build the complex by 2015, which is in line with the plan the university released last week. 

“We’ve got a lot of engaged alumni and corporations that we’re talking with,” Scarano said. “I’m confident that we’re going to do it. Certainly, there’s no guarantees, but certainly we’re having the right discussions with the right people.”

University President Mark Huddleston said the fundraising effort has picked up significant momentum.

“We are still very early in the process of securing funding but I expect the great momentum to continue,” Huddleston wrote in an email. “The university has already raised $1.7 million in private funds.”

Pamela Diamantis, chair of the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees, agreed with Scarano.

“I’ve already [received] emails from a couple friends of mine who are already thinking about making donations, and these are folks that typically don’t donate to UNH or do so in a much smaller level,” Diamantis said. “If we continue to get people as excited as they are today, I have a pretty good feeling that that’s going to come pretty easily.”

The new complex will include a new football stadium, to be named West Stadium. The stadium will be built where Cowell Stadium currently sits and will seat over 10,000, adding a little more than 3,500 seats to Cowell’s current 6,500. State of the art broadcasting and Wi-Fi capabilities, concession stands, and restrooms will be among the features that will bring the current UNH football facilities up to date. As the plans currently stand, there will be 480 premium seats, which will be priced higher, while the rest will be aluminum. Fans in the aluminum seating sections will be given “game day” stadium seats, which are attachable and have a backrest.

UNH is working with Populous, the group of architects who designed Camden Yards in Baltimore and Coors Field in Denver.

Scarano said he wants to make the new stadium similar to the Whittemore Center, with summer concerts featuring national touring acts, personal suites and, eventually, a student section. 

Scarano and the UNH administration have been taking a serious look at building a new facility since 2001, when Scarano said they did a feasibility study to determine where a new stadium should go, how many it should seat and other specifics. Between then and now, three or four more studies have been done, according to the athletic director.

Talks with key stake-holders about the new stadium became more serious nine months ago, Scarano said. 

“In the last nine months the discussions have really ramped up in anticipation of that meeting on last Thursday with the finance committee,” Scarano said.

Even before Scarano took over the UNH Athletic Department, he was well aware that UNH’s athletic facilities were due for an upgrade.

“[I knew] before I even arrived here, to be perfectly frank,” Scarano said. “I was at Colgate for 13 years, and we brought two teams here when I worked there and thought it was a pretty unimpressive facility at that point.”

What has bothered Scarano about Cowell is the message it sends to prospective students and their families. People who drive in to downtown Durham from Route 4 see the west side of the stadium on their right, and, according to Scarano, what they currently see does not represent the standards the university holds. This, he feels, is especially the case since UNH has been renovating McConnell Hall as well as the construction of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics. 

“It’s not at all representative of the institution and that’s really what this is about. This is about branding of the institution,” Scarano said. “You look at that chunk out there and you see these tennis courts, you look in the distance and you see these amateurish, high school stands – whatever the hell they are – across the way. If you look at the field outside, it’s drab, it’s broken, it’s dated – you know – none of that is representative of our center campus.”

Locker rooms will not be included in the additions. Those will remain in the Field House.

The athletic department is close to confirming with the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association that high school state football championships will also be held in the new facility. According to Scarano, the new facility brings in the possibility to host other major athletic events like the Special Olympics.

Scarano stressed that the facility is more than a new stadium for football, but he acknowledged that the football program played a big part in allowing this to happen. 

“So much of this is based on what [UNH football head coach] Sean McDonnell and the football program [have] done over the last decade,” Scarano said. “I mean, if the program wasn’t a good program, or if we were embarrassed by the program, none of this would have happened.”

And having the announcement come only weeks after the end of the football team’s best season ever seems fitting.

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Kalle Blomkvist
Mon Feb 10 2014 15:58
@Current Student

I totally understand your feelings, but I think the university is one step ahead of you.

From the press release announcing the stadium idea, "Academic buildings remain the university's highest priority and are consistently part of the university's long-term planning, Huddleston stressed. Many science and technology buildings have been renovated over the last decade and Hamilton Smith is next on that list."

Mon Feb 10 2014 10:07
What is most interesting is that the only team that occasionally brings in more revenue than it costs is men's hockey. Football occasionally breaks even but for the most part, all the teams are a net expense (and a large one) at that. Students must ask themselves if they truly feel that they should each subsidize a minority of students playing sports each year through the $1000 athletics fee.
Current student
Sat Feb 8 2014 05:22
Yup lets just forget about HamSmith (2nd oldest building on campus) that not only is waaaay overdue for renovations (last renovations were in the 60s), is no way accessible for people of varying abilities except for the basement which is barely accessible at that and I am fairly certain it is not totally up to safety code (which it gets around due to it's historical status). The building has had terrible accidents with the pipes and the English Dept/ Philosphy Dept are to the point where they won't risk storing any valuable items in the building due to fear that other catastropies may occur. This is a building almost every student will enter due to the Enghlish 401 requirement. It is disgraceful that this building continues to be put on the back burner. I get it Paul School got a donation fine (I won't even go into how at least half of non donation funding was moved from other UNH depts). But I thought HamSmith was a top priority?! It's basically not a safe building, the classrooms are terrible (outdated, lecture halls are terribly designed). I get wanting to bring in more dollars for other projects I really do! But seriously! HamSmith- again the 2nd oldest building on campus, needs love too!! We have a growing population of students who use wheelchairs (love the diversity!) if a student who uses a wheelchair wants to be an English major, the classes will always have to be moved and they will never get to enjoy the building their dept lives in! Don't let it get to the point where the whole building falls apart and is a total loss.
Fri Feb 7 2014 09:40
Terry -
The University of New Hampshire ranks lowest in the country for the amount of subsidy it receives from the state.
Fri Feb 7 2014 09:21
Terry - Blame it on Title IX all you want.. I was there and in the meetings.. It is because of financial constraints and if you know anything about title IX it is a numbers game and football crushes women's sports numbers. Also, the state of New Hampshire does not have the cash to help out the university. The cash flow is hurting at UNH, so again this makes no sense! Maybe Chip Kelly cant dig into his pockets and pay for it.. When i was at UNH I knew multiple players on the football team and a few that never touched the field and were on full scholarship. They use to laugh about it.
Fri Feb 7 2014 08:03
Will the administration commit to freezing the student athletic fee for the next ten years as a corollary of going forward with this project?
Tue Feb 4 2014 18:14
I'm with you Chip, pulled out by checkbook the minute I read the article!
Tue Feb 4 2014 17:28
Why is UNH poor? Because the state doesn't see the value in funding public education and there's nothing to spark interest to get wealthy benefactors to donate to the university. This project is a responsible investment to spark alumni interest and entice the top talent both academically and athletically to attend UNH. Also, the teams that you mentioned, which were cut in 1997, the year I got there, were cut due to failure to comply to title IX, not due to expenses. UNH football is the most visible ambassador to the university outside of New Hampshire. It is critical to pull interest from the outside area to entice students from other regions to come to UNH. UNH relies heavily on out of state tuition to fund its programs. For many living in the greater northeast and across the country, the only thing that they know about UNH is that its football team has the worst facilities in the Nation at the Division I level. (6 of UNH's games were either televised to the New England/ Mid-Atlantic regions or Nationally/ UNH vs. JMU NBC Sports, UNH vs. NDSU ESPN) The festering sore on the face of the University is Cowell Stadium. This fix is long overdue.
Tue Feb 4 2014 15:07
Don't worry, if the Paul building taught us anything it's that if one department can't come up with the cash UNH will just dip into the general tuition fund.
Tue Feb 4 2014 13:51
I would be happy to donate. It's about time Cowell got a facelift. the football program is whats brought me back to UNH and I could not be happier to see this happen.
Tue Feb 4 2014 13:44
I would like to say its about time. I am an alum and will donate. I was actually there for homecoming and the bathrooms didn.t work.
Tue Feb 4 2014 13:31
It s about time something like this happened there with that antique of a building. I am all for it and would like to know how to donate.
Tue Feb 4 2014 12:05
It's not a waste of money at all. Our mens football team is bringing more interest and national exposure than a Lax team ever would. Cowell is crumbling as it is and I'm pretty sure failed inspections this year. UNH athletics is an important role in the total exposure of our university across the country. Our athletic facilities suck and they need improvements. UNH is in no way a joke. Our academic facilities besides a few buildings are absolutely gorgeous, time the athletic ones reflect the rest after being ignored all the time besides the whitt which you mentioned. It's time NH starts actually funding the only D1 school in the state system.
Kalle Blomkvist
Tue Feb 4 2014 11:41
There's a concept drawing of the proposed stadium here:
Tue Feb 4 2014 09:29
What a waste of Money... UNH is poor and they want to spend 25 mill on a football stadium. The Whittemore put them in a financial mess and made them need to make the decision to cut Lacrosse and Baseball a few years back. Bring those sports back and cut Football like Northeastern and BU did.. Total waste of $$. Keep the stadium the way it is.. They made changes to it a few years back already.. Who cares if the perspective students see the visiting teams "High school" stands. UNH is becoming a joke. As an Alumni i would never donate a dime due to their poor management of $$$..

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