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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
There are three major projects on VCU's radar.
As VCU athletics moves forward under its new five-year strategic plan, the department's biggest priority is facilities.
The plan, released Thursday and titled "VCU Athletics Rising Higher: Next Steps," replaces the previous five-year strategic plan that VCU vice president and director of athletics Ed McLaughlin announced in July 2013, the year after he began his tenure at the school.
Three big projects remain on VCU's radar: a new ballpark, a new indoor-outdoor tennis facility and a new field house with practice fields.
McLaughlin said in an interview last month the school is close on the land portion of the tennis facility and field house projects. He said Friday it's going in a good direction.
He said the school needs to get its student-athletes the things they deserve.
"That'll be our big emphasis," McLaughlin said. "Because we are so far behind on things like practice fields, on things like just the normal stuff for our Olympic sports."
One part of the VCU facilities sphere that isn't up for significant alteration is the Siegel Center. The 7,637-seat arena has hosted 117 consecutive sellouts for men's basketball dating to January 2011.
There currently are no plans to expand seating at the Siegel Center.
"We're not in the position to look at it say, 'We're going to add another X number of seats,'" McLaughlin said. "I've always been a big believer in know who you are. And bigger is not always better."
In 2014, VCU completed other enhancements to the Siegel Center, including the center-hung scoreboard, LED ribbon board, suites and sound system. Two more suites were added in 2016.
Smaller projects along those lines are on the table moving forward.
"We're going to continue to do those little things to make the fan experience really good," McLaughlin said.
Another prominent part of the strategic plan is academics. One of the five strategic themes within it is "academic excellence."
McLaughlin said that's probably the area that requires the least amount of work to get to where the Rams want to be "because we've done such a good job these last five years with it," he said.
VCU has added staff to help with academics, McLaughlin said, and has put a lot of resources in tutoring.
Athletes at VCU have posted a combined GPA of better than 3.0 each of the past seven semesters and posted their highest combined GPA this past spring. The number wasn't immediately available.
"Our kids are doing so well in school," McLaughlin said. "And a lot of that has to do with our academic support. And just our expectations academically."
Revenue generation falls under the "fiscal sustainability" theme of the strategic plan. One area in which VCU has been raising money is as part of the university-wide Make It Real Campaign. The campaign was launched publicly in September 2016 but counts donations going back to July 2012.
The Make It Real Campaign has an overall goal of $750 million and has raised $619.7 million, according to the campaign website. The campaign includes a $51.8 million goal for athletics, and $41.8 million of that has been raised.
McLaughlin said that, if successful, VCU will hit the $51.8 million goal by the end of the year, and it will continue from there. The campaign ends in June 2020.
"We got a whole lot more money to raise," McLaughlin said. "But I feel good about our achievement so far, just because it really shows how much support people have given us."
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