UNCC OKs football program

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 11, 2009

UNC Charlotte’s Board of Trustees today unanimously approved plans to move forward with a football program in 2013. The proposal calls for the university to borrow $40.5 million to construct a permanent stadium and field house.
The decision came during the board’s meeting at the new Student Union.
Prior to the board’s approval, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois said while the financing plan does require imposing higher fees on students, it also offers several distinct and tangible advantages over other options.
Most notably, he said, the plan approved by the trustees would permit the university to take advantage of a favorable bidding environment for construction and historically low interest rates.
Other advantages include eliminating the need for rentals for things like temporary bleachers, concessions and restrooms. It also could stimulate interest in season ticket sales and private fund raising efforts with donors and sponsors.
Before the vote, Dubois said the university had a rare opportunity to take advantage of extremely low interest rates and a highly competitive construction bidding market. He also urged the trustees to view the proposal as a long-term investment.
“I’m concerned about student costs, of course,” he said. “But to delay this would kill it (football). We would have a hard time convincing people three years from now that we are serious.”
Several trustees also spoke in favor of the plan.
“I endorse it without any reservation,” said trustee Karen Popp.
Since he began exploring the possibility of fielding a football team more than two years ago, Dubois has spoken frankly about the financial challenges. Most of the costs of a football program would be borne by students and private donors because state law prohibits the use of public money for building athletic facilities such as a stadium.
“This is a long-term strategic plan that will pay huge dividends for students, alumni, faculty and staff at this vibrant university,” Dubois said. “It will foster a full university experience that many students crave as undergraduates.
“It also will help build closer relationships with our growing ranks of UNC Charlotte alumni and the greater Charlotte community,” he said. “Despite the economic challenges facing us all, this university is growing by leaps and bounds. We expect to have 35,000 students on campus by 2020 and we have strong support for football. We expect that will grow even stronger as we get closer to making it a reality.”
Under the plan, students would begin paying an additional $50 operational fee beginning in the fall of 2011 for the football program. That would increase by $50 per year to $200. An additional $120 fee for debt service will begin in the fall of 2010 to cover the costs to build training and practice facilities and a new stadium on the campus.
Now the proposal must be approved by the UNC System Board of Governors and it is also subject to review by the North Carolina General Assembly.
“We still have a long way to go, but this is an important first step,” Dubois said after the vote was greeted by applause.