November 08, 2007

Board OK's planning, budget for athletics facilities

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. — If all goes according to plan, the football Salukis will christen new digs in August 2010 and the basketball teams will follow suit two months later in a newly renovated SIU Arena.

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, meeting today (Nov. 8) on the Carbondale campus, authorized development of the detailed design and plans for the phased construction of the new football stadium, renovations to the Arena and relocation of the tennis courts and recreational sports' lighted fields. The board set the budget at $83 million.

External and/or internal financing will pay for the projects. Debt payments will come from student athletics fees, funds from the City of Carbondale, revenues generated by the athletics department and private donations.

The design work will take about a year.

The projects are part of Saluki Way, the plan to create a new campus core that would stretch from the flagpole near Altgeld Hall south to the new football stadium and refurbished SIU Arena. The plan also calls for a new student services building, a new academic building and modern parking garages.

"Athletics are very much a part of the fabric of a university, not just for the student-athletes, coaches and athletics department staff, but for supporters on campus, in the community and beyond," SIU President Glenn Poshard said. "Our athletics teams have brought significant, positive national exposure to the athletics program and our University as a whole. In addition, our teams attract fans from well beyond Carbondale, which gives a boost to the local business community. The new football stadium and improvements to the Arena are long overdue and will go a long way

toward revitalizing the east side of campus. I also am confident that in addition to helping recruit quality student-athletes, these facilities will help recruit other students who will be impressed by our commitment to moving the entire University forward."

He added that the University will "simultaneously undertake significant renovations to academic buildings around the campus."

In 2006, the Board of Trustees approved integrating the Saluki Way plan into the 2001 Land Use Plan, which was drafted by a committee chaired by Poshard during his tenure as SIUC's vice chancellor for administration. The board also last year renamed the revised and updated plan as the 2006 Campus Master Plan for the Carbondale campus.

"Six years ago, President Poshard and the Committee Concerning the Campus Environment, with broad input from across campus, presented the University community with a sound plan for orderly and logical improvements, and we have seen a number of those goals implemented," Chancellor Fernando M. Treviño said, referring to the new Student Health Center, the Morris Library renovation/expansion project currently under way, new campus signage and the women's softball stadium, among other projects. "That plan also called for improvements to other athletics facilities, and the new football stadium and renovated Arena will dramatically improve the eastern boundary of the campus and serve as magnets to attract more visitors and students to our campus."

Athletics Director Mario Moccia said everyone in his department appreciates today's action by the board.

"This is one big step toward the finish line," he said. "We anticipate this will benefit not only the athletics program but the entire University and the community as well."

He expects the improvements to have a lasting impact.

"New facilities help us not only keep up with what our competition is doing but allow us to recruit top-notch student athletes," Moccia said.

The football stadium, with 12,000 fixed seats plus additional "lawn" seating, will replace McAndrew Stadium, originally constructed in 1939. The new facility will be located south of McAndrew and northeast of the Arena. The "U"-shaped facility will feature tiered seating on the east, west and south sides, with a corresponding lower concourse level. The main entry will be at the southwest corner, with the scoreboard on the north end. The concourse will house concessions, restrooms and storage areas. A media area, coaches' suites, a club area and viewing suites will be on the west side, above the seating areas.

Construction of the new stadium will require relocating the University tennis courts and the recreational sports fields.

Renovations to the Arena, which opened in 1964, will include new seating throughout the lower and upper areas, improved accessibility and entrances to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, middle handrails at all aisles, improved concessions, additional restrooms and fan amenities on the upper level, a new scoreboard and other aesthetic and functional improvements.

A two-level addition will be built on the northeast side of the Arena and will house a main entrance, expanded team facilities, an auditorium, mechanical areas and office space.

The renovations will take place in two phases, as the Salukis will continue to play basketball in the Arena while the project is under way.