AJ's Monday Musings

I recently checked out the drawings of Clemson's football stadium after the current renovations process is complete. Once finished, the project will give the Tigers one of the top facilities in the nation, and will be an even greater advantage for the gang from Death Valley.

The West end zone, which currently holds a large bank of seats, will offer a new front to the stadium and will be enclosed. The new building could stand as high as five stories above the end zone seats, will connect the North and South concourses, and will house luxury seating and various new football-related facilities, consolidating the entire program.

Each level of the new building will have stands that set out in front, similar to the third tier at North Carolina's Kenan Stadium.

According to a representative from the school, the tiered structure would add anywhere from 6,200-7,400 seats, bringing the stadium's true capacity to around 92,000.

There will also be a family area, where kids can play. This area is designed to get families to come to all games, even ones against weak I-A or even I-AA teams.

A Clemson sports Hall of Fame that will mostly concentrate on football will complete the facility. Target date for completion is the fall of 2005.

Now, I realize UNC recently expanded Kenan Stadium, which was completed for the 1997 season, and that the Tar Heels haven't played before full houses very often since Mack Brown left for Texas nearly six years ago. But it's time for Carolina to make plans for another renovation project Among the Pines.

If John Bunting is the man to get Carolina back where its fans expect and to compete with where rival N.C. State currently is, the stadium will need more seats. Add the likelihood the ACC will expand and there is an excellent chance UNC will host either Florida State or Miami every year ensuring at least three sellouts every two years (including N.C. State's visit), it only makes sense.

Yet having such an ambition will come by easier with plans to renovate the open endzone, or otherwise known as "The Alamo" or the "Spanish endzone." That building may have some history, but it's simply not worth preserving, at least for the eye to see from inside Kenan. It's time UNC finishes stepping into the 21st Century.

Carolina already has most everything in place to attract quality players and people. But as Clemson, N.C. State, Virginia and Georgia Tech continue to beautify their homes, the Heels can't get left behind.

The open endzone can be filled by a bank of, say, 5,000 seats built into the current structure. Because it is important to maintain some of Kenan's history, this endzone shouldn't be fully enclosed. The pine trees currently in Kenan should remain, but the concourses could be connected, but cleverly with a walkway through the pines and without disturbing the hills currently inside the stadium. To do this the fence that closes the stadium to outsiders will simply be moved back. This would add a classic and nice touch to an already gorgeous stadium.

This expansion would bring Kenan's capacity to 65,000. The plan should include another 5,000-seat tier above the lower deck, but only after the first phase settles and there is a demand for more tickets. The Fans need to show up first.

It would also make sense to extend the luxury tier on the visitor's side of the stadium to the width of the upper deck. It looks odd, especially on TV, and would make Kenan more imposing if it was bigger. This could add another 1,000 seats, bringing the temporary new capacity to 66,000. Phase Two of the endzone project would ultimately bring Kenan to a very respectable 71,000 seats.

Now, I understand many of you are saying it makes no sense until fans fill up Kenan on a regular basis, and for the most part I agree. But the school also needs to be proactive. Either Bunting will get Carolina back into the top 15 or he will be gone and someone else will be hired with that being their chief responsibility. Basketball may be king at UNC, but football is also big, and with the ACC's courtship of three Big East schools mainly for football reasons, it's clear that football is the future of college sports. Carolina must act accordingly.

Either way the seats will be needed, because UNC fans will show up in time. They did before and will again. And quite frankly, other than Carl Torbush's second year, the Heels have drawn pretty well since Brown left, all things considered.

This week's question is: Would you like to see a plan in place for a project that would expand the open endzone at Kenan? Do you think being proactive is wise and sends a good message to anyone paying attention that UNC is committed to football? Do you believe Carolina will ever be able to come close to filling up a 66,000 or 71,000-seat stadium? If you are skeptical, what will it take to sell out an entire season with such capacities?

Please send your responses to totlsprts@aol.com. I will select a few replies to be posted in next week's Musings.


Last week I asked if you would have become a huge UNC baseball fan if the Heels were to win a title and become a national power? Could the pain of a year like this past one for football (3-9) and basketball (NIT) have been soothed by titles in baseball and lacrosse or golf (see Clemson)? What would it take, if anything? Or do you simply not care about anything but men's hoops and football?

From Brian Johnson, class of 1992, Cary, N.C.

Interesting timing of your article. I just sent a letter to the N&O about the insulting level of coverage for UNC baseball over the past two weeks. In summary, my point was that while NCSU deserves added enhanced coverage for hosting a regional, UNC's success (2 games behind in regular season standing, 4th in tourney vs. 2nd, 3 less wins on season, practically handing NCSU 2 of it's 3 wins vs. NCSU this year) has been given less attention than that of even ECU, whom UNC swept in two regular season contests and that is insulting.

I will preface my response by saying that I am a fan of most UNC sports, but particularly baseball, basketball, volleyball and football. I think UNC's strong athletic program is a tribute to the university's stature as one of the elite in the nation.

So should the baseball team win a national title and go on to become a national power, I would not be more of a fan, but it would definitely help to ease my agony over the present state of affairs with basketball and football. Additional titles in golf or lacrosse would go a small step further in easing the pain, but I will admit that the level of amelioration is proportional to the interest I have in the sport for programs I support.

While the soccer championships are nice, winning a title in one of majors is especially nice. I would have to be a bigger fan, rather than a bigger supporter, of such sports as soccer and lacrosse to include those sports in the "especially nice" category and I'm just not a big fan regardless of winning or losing.

From Bob Wilson, '75, Claremont, Calif.

Yes, I support all of the Tar Heel teams. I wrestled for Carolina in '72, so I have an understanding for what athletes not named Hedgecock, Durant, and Felton go through. Living in Southern California, I was at the UCLA game at Pauley when Will Johnson and Julius Peppers played so well. I was at the USC football game when we ruined John Robinson's return. I have been to the Maui Classic and the Great Alaskan Shootout to support the Heels.

I have gone to Las Vegas to cheer for the wrestling team, and to Santa Clara to support women's soccer. If I know an Olympic team is in the area, I will be there. With smaller crowds, the teams are more appreciative of the fans that do turn out.

As an undergraduate, I would watch baseball from my Ehringhaus balcony. My suitemate, who is still a close friend, threw the shot put and discus. I went to his meets - he came to my matches. Another roommate ran the intermediate hurdles.

From Chris Miller

I would consider myself a huge UNC fan and not just a huge basketball and football fan. This year will be the 3rd year that I have had season football tickets. Like about every other UNC fan, I would love to have season basketball tickets, but don't. I have been to several baseball and women's soccer games over the past several years, but have never really gone to much more than just the football games. The main reason is because of the scheduling. Although I work in Cary, it is not always convenient for me to attend weekday games. Unfortunately a lot of the weekends are taken too. Therefore, football is the only sport that I can commit to consistently. So if you are measuring the level of interest in a sport by the number of games you go to, I guess I could not consider myself a huge UNC fan of the other sports. But if you measure my interest level by how closely I follow the sports, then I think you can just consider me a huge UNC fan as I try to follow all the sports that I can via websites and newspaper. No matter how well the teams are doing, I am always keeping my eye out and trying to find out if they are winning or losing.

Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He also covers the ACC for the Wilmington Star-News/Morning Star and can be reached via e-mail at: totlsprts@aol.com.

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