Finally, a stadium to call home
UAlbany announces plans for multi-sport complex; includes 8,000-seat stadium
Published: Monday, February 20, 2012
Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2012 14:06
For many University at Albany sports fans, an announcement of the construction of a legitimate football stadium seemed like a pipe dream that would never come to fruition.
But at a press conference last Wednesday, that fantasy became a reality when school officials announced plans for construction of a multi-use sports complex to replace the dilapidated University Field.
As part of the complex, a new football and soccer stadium will be built where the current soccer field stands, east of SEFCU Arena and south of the practice bubble. The track around University Field will be replaced and where the current field lies, areas for shotput, javelin and other field games will be built.
The third part of the megaproject, which is slated to cost $24 million with a groundbreaking in mid-April, is the construction of a multi-use intramural field east of the tennis courts by Dutch Quad where the rugby team currently plays their matches.
"It's about the past, the present and the future," said UAlbany Athletics Director Lee McElroy, who has long championed the building of a new complex to compete with schools such as Stony Brook and Buffalo, who have built stadiums in recent years. "It really bodes well for the future, bodes well for recruiting, bodes well for the Capital Region, bodes well for the community and it will really help elevate us to another level in how we do things."
The timeline of construction for the project is somewhat hazy, despite April's groundbreaking, as bids for the project are due to be submitted on Feb. 21.
As currently formulated, the construction will take place in three phases, with the intramural field built first with completion this fall, the stadium second with completion in the fall of 2013 and the track facility last with completion in the winter of 2013.
However, retiring UAlbany President George Philip said the school hopes to have the football facility done in time for the team's last home game in late November.
The $24 million for the project will be split between $18 million in state appropriations earmarked for capital projects as well as $6 million from donors. School officials said $1 million of that had already been given to the university by an anonymous donor.
"We have a great deal of interest (from donors) because we've had so many false starts on this in the past," Philip said. "We have a lot of people who are saying ‘Put a shovel in the ground and put pen to paper.'"
Philip said a significant amount of football coach Bob Ford's former players have shown interest in giving a donation.
The stadium, which the school hopes will draw local high school games, will feature 4,000 permanent seats, 2,000 grass berm seats and 2,000 temporary seats as well as six luxury suites. The project is being designed by Heery International, an Atlanta-based architecture firm that has designed stadiums including the Georgia Dome and Turner Field as well as renovations of the Cotton Bowl and Clemson's football stadium.
The stadium is capable of being expanded - termed "modular" by Philip – should the program grow and move into a bigger league than the Northeast Conference, such as the America East, if it decides to sponsor football.
"I think that's where this institution belongs, with the Delaware's and the UMass's and the New Hampshire's and the Maine's," Ford said. "I say to the kids we'll play anywhere, anytime, anyone. But, I'm happy we're getting the stadium."
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings said the school has been talking about renovating the facilities since he was a graduate student at UAlbany in 1973.
The project's construction will heighten the abilities of the school to recruit students and "put (UAlbany) on a nationally competitive field," Jennings said.
The new track will replace years of embarrassment for track director Roberto Vives, whose teams have long been forced to use other schools' facilities. Vives, in his 27th year as director of arguably the school's most successful athletic program, said the announcement of new facilities was a long time coming.
"This is truly an incredible day," Vives said. "This is going to be tremendous for our student-athletes and for the university community."
Philip said the construction of the project would accommodate the training camp of the New York Giants in the summer. He said the team has supports the project and a financial contribution is possible from the team.