Inside Carolina

Target Date Set for UNC Football Indoor Practice Facility

UNC expects to have its indoor football practice facility completed prior to the start of the 2018 season.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina has expanded its plans for an athletic facilities upgrade by pairing a soccer and lacrosse stadium concept with the $25 million indoor football practice facility approved in November.

Conceptual designs obtained by Inside Carolina detail a plan to build the structures side-by-side in the current footprint of Fetzer Field and the grass field at Navy Fields. Support space for the indoor practice facility would be located underneath the stands of the new soccer and lacrosse stadium. The two remaining practice fields would be rotated 90 degrees to run parallel to Ridge Road.

“That is the preferred option at this point,” Mike Bunting, UNC’s assistant athletic director for facility planning and management, said in an interview last week. “We’re still at the very early stages of this.”

The UNC Board of Trustees approved plans to move forward with the construction of an indoor practice facility on Nov. 18. UNC does not yet have approval for the soccer and lacrosse stadium. The approval process includes presenting the plans and acquiring permissions from a variety of groups and committees, including UNC’s Board of Governors and Board of Trustees and the University’s Buildings and Grounds and Design Review Committees, as well as the Town of Chapel Hill.

“Our hope is that we are going to be able to design and build the soccer-lacrosse stadium and the indoor practice facility as one project,” Bunting said. “Same design team, same construction manager. Do it all as one project even though they are separate facilities.”

UNC is waiting on proposals to complete both projects at the same time before placing a design team under contract. The next step is scheduling programming meetings, which is a normal course of design and development that includes coaches, staffs and user groups to provide feedback on the design. Reviews and approvals will run concurrently with the design and development process.

“We expect to be able to begin that design and development process within the next few weeks,” Bunting said. “That’s not definite.”

Bunting estimated 12-14 months for the design and development process and another 12-15 months for construction duration, although the latter time window is still in question due to UNC not having a construction manager currently in place. Once a design team is under contract, the University will put the construction services out to bid.

Bunting said that while the goal is to finish the project before the start of the 2018 football season, UNC will finish sooner, if possible.

UNC prefers this option for several reasons. For one, there is a cost efficiency with designing and building the facilities as one project. There is also a matter of construction accessibility to Fetzer Field if the indoor practice facility was built separately. The other factor is an effort to limit the campus disturbance duration.

“If we can do this at once and create one shorter disturbance for two soccer programs, two lacrosse programs, the track program, the football program - field hockey is going to be impacted by this because they live right there - if we can do one shorter disturbance, we think that’s a better situation for our student-athletes and for the campus community at large,” Bunting said. “If we can get this done in one 12-15-month disturbance, that’s better than 12 months for the indoor practice facility and another 12 months at a later date for a soccer-lacrosse stadium.”

UNC athletics overlap and share spaces with campus recreation and the exercise and sports science department, which adds another variable to the process due to the location involved.

“We want campus buy-in on this,” Bunting said. “We’ve been completely transparent with our friends in campus rec and exercise and sports science and student affairs. We’re in the heart of campus. We don’t want to do anything that hasn’t been completely socialized with everybody that’s going to have to look at this every day, so we’re sensitive to that, too.”

Bunting expects “no substantial change” in Fetzer Field’s seating capacity, which is currently listed at 5,700. The plans call for seating on both sides of the proposed stadium.

All of the design work is conceptual at this point, according to Bunting, so an accurate price tag on the full cost of the project is not yet available. All funding for the project will be raised privately through the Rams Club.

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