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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)
Populous Architects, a Kansas City firm that helped design the new Yankee Stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Nationals Ballpark in Washington, appears almost certain to receive the contract to design the new Foreman Field for Old Dominion.
ODU filed an "intent to award" notice recently that indicates the school will hire Populous and Moseley Architects of Virginia Beach to design the renovated stadium. However, no contract has been signed nor a fee agreed upon, said Dale Feltes, the school's director of design and construction, and procurement director Etta Henry.
Populous would work with a construction management firm over the next year, designing an extensive renovation of the historic, 81-year-old stadium. A construction management firm should be hired by November, Feltes said.
A construction firm to do the renovation won't be hired until after the design is finished.
The hiring of Populous was first reported by the Daily Press in Newport News.
Foreman Field's east and west side stands are to be demolished after the 2018 season and rebuilt in time for the 2019 home opener against Norfolk State. That gives officials 14 months to design the new stadium, get state approval for the design and then hire a construction firm.
Feltes said "this is a typical design process for us, only it's on roller skates."
State officials have given ODU approval to spend $55 million on the renovation, a figure to which school President John Broderick said the school will stick.
Populous and Moseley did a stadium study for ODU in June 2016 that recommended how the stadium should be expanded. However, because of changing economic times, the project's scope could change to include more revenue-producing features.
Populous recommended that seating capacity increase only slightly, from 20,118 to 22,130, but about 15,500 fans on the east and west sides would have chairback seats and modern concessions and restroom facilities, amenities currently lacking at Foreman Field.
However, no new club seating nor luxury suites would be added in Phase 1, which would limit new revenue the stadium would produce.
ODU is facing budget challenges not anticipated in 2016. ODU was forced to trim $890,000 from its athletic budget this year because of declining enrollment, and the school is committed to not raising student fees to build the stadium.
"We want to review the concept that we developed to make sure that it's appropriate for the university's needs," Feltes said.
"In my mind, everything is back on the table," Selig added. "Is 22,000 seats the right number? Is all-chairback seats the right commitment?
"Does the stadium, as it was initially designed, maximize the return on $55 million investment? Are there elements that were going to be expensive in the initial design, with technology and engineering, that can be done less expensively so we can reinvest in other areas?"
Regardless, Selig said Populous is the ideal firm to design the renovation.
"They know the project, the site, the university and the community so well," he said. "It's such a fast-track project overall. We don't have a lot of time to get someone up to speed on the overall project.
"They know our financial limitations for Phase 1. They are familiar with the market research and the goals of the university. They'll work hand in hand with the construction manager to deliver a $55 million rebuild of the stadium in 2019.
"It's a very aggressive schedule. We don't plan on missing any games. We don't plan on moving the team to play somewhere else. They've got a lot of moving pieces to coordinate."
ODU began debating whether to renovate Foreman Field or build a new stadium five years ago when the school announced it would move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
A 2013 campus master plan re-commended building a new stadium on the west side of campus near the Elizabeth River. Foreman Field was to be demolished and replaced with dormitories.
ODU hired Populous and Moseley two years later to conduct their study. Populous officials concluded that a new stadium would cost upward of $160 million, a price ODU could not afford.
The focus then moved back to renovating Foreman Field.
Populous recommended in June 2016 that ODU tear down and replace most of Foreman Field in stages. The complex of luxury suites, loge seats and home locker room in the south end zone, built in 2009, will be all that remains when the renovation is complete.
Phase I would include reconstructing only the east and west sides. Luxury suites, a press box tower, replacing the north end zone seats and a new scoreboard are scheduled for future phases that would cost nearly $100 million and expand seating to more than 30,000.
ODU officials said they don't foresee the entire remake being done for many years.
ODU is in the midst of a $40 million fundraising campaign for athletics. Selig has said he hopes $20 million of that money would go toward the second phase of the Foreman Field renovation.
"The next 30 to 60 days will be absolutely critical in getting everyone back together to review what we initially designed and figure out what needs to change," he said.
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