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The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)
DURHAM - Duke athletics will grow a little more over the next few years as the school announced Monday that it will add a softball team for the 2018 season.
In addition to softball, four existing women's teams - fencing, rowing, women's swimming and diving and women's track and field - will receive the maximum NCAA scholarship limits.
"Duke University is fully committed to providing the most complete educational and athletic opportunities for women," Duke athletics director Kevin White said in a statement. "Adding both softball and new scholarships will enhance and enrich the collective experiences for female student-athletes. Specifically, softball will be a great addition to our varsity programs because it is played at the highest level in the Atlantic Coast Conference."
The addition of softball will give Duke 27 sports - 14 for women and 13 for men.
The ACC currently has 11 schools that participate in softball. Duke, Miami, Wake Forest and Clemson do not field softball teams.
Duke is in line to add softball and increase scholarships in the four other sports due to increased revenue from ACC disbursements. The school also projects additional revenue from the new club seats and suites planned to be constructed at Cameron Indoor Stadium and Wallace Wade Stadium in the coming years.
Mike Cragg, Duke's deputy director of athletics for operations, is overseeing the facility upgrades that are planned as part of the Duke Forward fundraising initiative. A total of $100 million will go toward facilities.
Cragg said the school is looking at two sites for the new softball complex, which will include a playing facility that would seat around 500 fans as well as an adjacent practice field. That practice field would also be used for intramural sports.
"Like all our facilities, it will be built first class," Cragg said.
The preferred site for the softball field would be off N.C. 751 (Cameron Boulevard) in West Campus behind the David Thomas Executive Conference Center. That would fit with Duke's hopes to have most of its athletic facilities near one another.
But Cragg said an East Campus site near Williams Field, home of Duke field hockey, is also under consideration.
Cragg said the athletics department's fundraising for Duke Forward is going well but has yet to be completed. He estimated it is about two-thirds complete.
Practice fields for soccer and lacrosse, under construction since last summer, are completed along Cameron Boulevard across from the Washington Duke Inn.
Koskinen Stadium improvements have now begun with new bleachers being installed. Next month, construction on the new track stadium is scheduled to begin as well as construction of the Kennedy Tower, which will serve both the track stadium and Koskinen Stadium.
As for Wallace Wade Stadium, Cragg said the plan now is to remove the track, lower the field and tear down the Finch-Yeager Building following the 2014 season. That will allow for new club seats to be added closer to the playing field and for the construction of a new building that will house club suites and press facilities.