Construction will begin immediately on the project that is expected to take roughly 15 months to complete in time for the start of the 2011 football season. The Center for Excellence will replace the Kenan Fieldhouse, which was built in 1927.
Sales of club seats and individual suites began in October 2009. Those sales will provide approximately 50 percent of the funding of the $70 million project. Private donations will fund the rest of the project. The athletic department will not use state funds.
"The Carolina Center for Excellence will help us provide exceptional academic support to our nearly 800 student-athletes," says Director of Athletics Dick Baddour. "It also creates a new source of revenue that over the next 30 years will help us maintain the broad-based, 28-sport program we have long enjoyed."
The athletic department and Rams Club announced in October 2009 that they were beginning a sales and fundraising phase with final Board of Trustees approval of the project pending the results of those efforts.
"We are very pleased with the sales to date and we're even more excited about how our donors have stepped forward in recognizing the need to provide our student-athletes with a first-class academic and training center," says John Montgomery, Executive Director of the Rams Club. "They really feel a connection and sense of pride in providing our student-athletes the best environment in which to study and train, and they also see the Carolina Leadership Academy as a place where we can develop truly great leaders."
The academic center will be a 30,000 square foot facility that will triple the size of the one that opened in 1986.
"Carolina offers student-athlete opportunities to one of the largest groups of young men and women in the country, but the current academic support facility is inadequate," says Baddour. "Each of our student-athletes will see direct benefits from the Center for Excellence that will help them reach their academic goals."
The academic center will include classrooms, computer labs, a writing center, auditorium, individual and group tutorial/conference rooms, and offices for the academic support staff, career services, community outreach, life skills and Carolina Leadership Academy.
"Carolina's commitment to academics and the emergence in recent years of the Leadership Academy are two reasons why we are able to continually recruit the best young people," says Karen Shelton, head coach of the Tar Heel field hockey team. "Every day our coaches see the benefits of the programs taught in the Leadership Academy. It's a real plus to all of our teams. Unfortunately, support programs like that have out-grown the current academic center. The Center for Excellence demonstrates again the University's commitment to its students, including those in Olympic sports and the women's program."
The strength and conditioning center will be housed at field level and will include 13,600 square feet of cardio and strength training equipment and a 40-yard track. That almost doubles the amount of space that is currently available.
"We desperately have been in need of a larger training area," Greg Gatz, Director of Strength and Conditioning for Olympic Sports, said when the sales plan was announced in the fall. "Every day we schedule hundreds of student-athletes from two dozen teams. The new facility will allow us to train more people at once and reduce the time they will need to work out early in the morning or later at night."
The additional seats in the end zone, named the Blue Zone, offers 1,836 seats in the Concourse Club/Loge just a few feet from the field, 824 seats in the Upper Club/Loge on the fourth floor and 320 seats in 20 suites on the fifth floor. Combined, the project adds 2,980 seats to the stadium's capacity.
The individual suites, each of which has 16 seats, sell for $50,000 per year. Each seat in the club/loge levels range from $750 to $2,500 per season.
"Sales began last fall and we already have commitments for almost half of what we need to meet our goal and we're 16 months before the Blue Zone opens," says Montgomery. "Fans who want to purchase seats in the Blue Zone should contact the Rams Club soon because the initial response has been so strong."