UNCC still hoping to kick off in 2013
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó Charlotte is forging ahead with plans to start a football program in 2013 despite lagging sales for permanent seat licenses and the shaky economy.
Chancellor Philip Dubois unveiled a new $23.5 million stadium proposal Thursday that was greeted with enthusiasm by the board of trustees. It calls for building a temporary field on the site for the proposed permanent, on-campus stadium instead of converting the soccer and track facility.
But the school is still far short of having money to bring football to the school of nearly 25,000 students. Athletic director Judy Rose said they’ve sold 2,573 PSLs worth $3.27 million, far short of the $5 million they originally hoped to have committed by Thursday.
School officials hope shifting plans and putting the 15,000-seat stadium on the planned permanent site, plus the drawings from the architectural firm the school has hired, will boost enthusiasm for PSL sales.
“I think the excitement from the board and actually having those renditions to show people, people think it’s real now,” Rose said. “And I think that will be a great selling point for us.”
Rose is also leading the effort to raise another $18 million from companies and large donors. Rose said they’ve held off making a strong push for big donations because of the economy, although they have received a $1 million commitment.
“I’m not at liberty at this time to discuss names of companies or individuals that we’ve talked with, but we are very positive about the remarks that we’ve heard back,” Rose said. “We’ve put feelers out for $5 million, $10 million and they haven’t said, ‘Go away.’ In this climate I think that’s a good thing.”
When the board first voted to start football in November, it was contingent on raising $45 million to build a 15,000-seat on-campus stadium that would allow Charlotte to begin in the lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision.
But after PSL sales lagged, Dubois told the board they could renovate the school’s track and field complex and bring in temporary bleachers to get the program started. That would reduce the initial expense to about $20 million.
The latest proposal, building a shell on the permanent stadium site that could eventually be expanded to 40,000 seats for play at the NCAA’s highest level, was proposed recently by architects hired by the school.
“It became very clear in the long run you’d save substantial amounts of money if we went to this Plan C as (Dubois) talked about,” board member Gene Johnson said. “I think it’s pretty clear that I’d rather spend a little more money now and save a lot of money down the road ó and have something that I think is more a sense of permanency.”
Other board members agreed. Still, Dubois will present another report in December with a recommendation on whether it’s still feasible to begin football by 2013. It’s clear more progress will need to be made in fundraising by then.
“It’s a challenge, but I don’t think it’s an obstacle,” Rose said. “I think there are enough people out there that really want football.”