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Star-News (Wilmington, NC)
The future of UNCW athletics is laid out in rough sketches, though it's going to take a major fundraising effort to make the facilities upgrades reality.
Athletic director Jimmy Bass detailed the department's long-term plans to fix its aging courts and fields on Thursday afternoon for the External Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees.
Bass showed early renderings for what he labeled "phase two" of the university's outdoor enhancement plan. The images — produced by Charlotte-based Jenkins-Peer Architects — include an addition to Trask Coliseum, a new or majorly renovated baseball stadium, an indoor hitting facility for baseball and softball and a new tennis stadium.
Bass provided no timeline or price tags for the projects because they aren't close enough to start the design process. But the athletic department, in conjunction with the Seahawk Club, has begun the process of seeking major donors to finance them. The athletic department will not prioritize the projects, allowing them to be started based on when funding emerges.
"We're trying to gauge which project donors might be interested in and kind of their level of support they might anticipate giving," Bass said afterward. "This is all so exploratory right now until we get more (information), but we've gotten a very positive response from everybody that we've talked to."
What's on the list?
An addition to Trask Coliseum would extend beside Hanover
Hall, making use of an open space Bass called "a waste area." The first floor would house the athletic department hall of fame, and the project would also include locker rooms and office space for the men's and women's basketball teams.
The university has already put together a proposal to send to major donors soliciting a "seven-figure" gift. Seahawk Club president Rob Aycock guessed that project would cost between $5 and $6 million.
That's just one item on the list Aycock is in the process of selling to potential donors, and having pictures to show what the new facilities might look like has helped, he said.
"I think the attitude is everybody's really excited about the vision," Aycock said. "The point now is who's going to jump in first? Who's going to be that maverick, that trail blazer who really steps up and makes the first project happen. I really think it's going to start to waterfall at that point."
There are several ideas in play for the baseball stadium, which could include new construction or an extensive renovation on the existing site. The goal is a 3,000-seat venue that could host an NCAA Regional, and Bass described an indoor hitting facility as an important feature to keep the Seahawks competitive on the recruiting trail.
The team's current practice field will move behind the right field wall at Brooks Field as part of the first phase of the project, with a turf field set for its current place.
The tennis stadium would expand on its current site and include seating and locker room and office space. Bass also mentioned the possibility of an adjacent indoor facility that could be built through a public/private partnership. He added that both current coaches prioritize a stadium ahead of the indoor facility.
The other major piece in Bass's plan doesn't yet have a sketch, but he's hopeful the university can, at some point, build a "human performance laboratory" that would serve as a field house for the athletic department.
The building would have a new weight room, medical training classrooms, storage areas and additional locker rooms and office space. The current Almkuist-Nixon Sports Medicine Complex could then be used as an academic support building for athletics, Bass said.
"(That's) one facility on there that's an absolute priority for me," Bass said.
These projects are separate from the first phase of the outdoor enhancement plan, which focuses on the university's intramural facilities and a renovated track and field complex.
Those upgrades - funded by a little more than $5 million left over from the bond that overhauled the student recreation center - were approved by the Board of Trustees in December and are due to begin this summer.
University chief financial officer Charlie Maimone couldn't provide a timeline for construction on the track facilities. He said the rest of the phase one work should be finished by the end of 2015.
The new track will be in the same spot but turned slightly, and it will also include lights that will allow the venue to host high school meets and the Colonial Athletic Association championship.
"This is kind of the vision for what we think this university deserves and needs for its athletic facilities," Bass said. "We need to improve our athletic facilities for a lot of different reasons to help our student athletes."
Eric Detweiler: 343-2261 - On Twitter: @edetweiler