Duke athletics begins long-term renovation project

Jul. 03, 2013 @ 04:37 PM

With the first bit of earth having been moved along Bassett Drive, the chain reaction that will transform that corner of Duke’s West Campus has begun.
The university’s athletic department is in the midst of a facilities upgrade as part of the campus-wide Duke Forward campaign.
First up, from an athletics point of view, is the construction of three new soccer/lacrosse practice fields on a plot of land surrounded by Bassett Drive, Science Drive and Cameron Boulevard (N.C. 751).
From this project, much more will come.
“That’s kind of the first big domino of 100 million,” said Mike Cragg, Duke’s senior associate athletics director for facilities.
The school aims to raise $3.25 billion for the entire Duke Forward campaign, which was announced in September. Of that, $250 million is earmarked for the athletics department.
The majority of that, $150 million, will go toward operations ($100 million) and the department’s endowment ($50 million).
That leaves $100 million in planned facilities upgrades and the road to getting those projects done begins with the practice field construction currently underway.
“We have a lack of field space and a high demand for it across the student body,” Cragg said. “This will be a huge step up in a state-of-the-art practice facility for soccer and lacrosse.”
Wet weather this spring and summer has slowed the project a bit, Cragg said, but the target for completion is October. The men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams won’t be the only benefactors. The three full-length fields — two artificial turf and one grass — also will be available for intramural and club sports.
Duke women’s soccer coach Robbie Church said the turf fields will be an especially important addition.
“There is a big difference in the surfaces,” Church said. “Where it will have direct impact for women’s soccer will be in winter and spring time working with speed and agility coaches. We can train on bad weather days. We can jump and train on the turf fields instead of our grass fields.”
During the season, teams can practice on them before playing at Pittsburgh and Boston College, which both have artificial surfaces at their playing facilities.
Also, the new Duke practice fields will be permanently lined so they can be used for games if wet weather makes Koskinen Stadium unavailable.
With ACC expansion bringing in Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and, next year, Louisville, this option can be used to prevent cancellation of games and the extra expense of a team traveling back to Duke for a makeup game.
Currently, the soccer practice fields, known as the 751 Fields, are across Cameron Boulevard. The lacrosse practice fields were located next to Koskinen Stadium.
Once the new fields are done this fall, work can begin on the new Williams Track and Field Stadium that will take over the lacrosse practice field space.
Construction on that project tentatively is scheduled to begin once the men’s and women’s soccer teams complete their seasons this fall.
The Williams Stadium project includes construction of the Kennedy Tower, a media and hospitality facility that will be used for both Koskinen Stadium and Williams Stadium.
Along with that, Koskinen Stadium is scheduled to have new bleachers installed in time for lacrosse season, which begins in February.
Cragg said the Kennedy Tower won’t be done in time for lacrosse season. Rather, the hope is that it will be completed in time for the 2014 soccer season.
But once the new practice fields are complete and the Williams Track and Field Stadium is under construction, Duke can turn its attention to major changes at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Plans call for the track that surrounds the football field to be removed so the field can be lowered to add seating closer to the playing surface. In addition, a new tower that features luxury suites will be constructed where the current Finch-Yeager Building now stands.
But the order in which these improvements will occur has not been set, Cragg said.
The school still is going through the process of getting permits for the projects. Plus, while the athletic department is more than halfway to its $250 million goal, not all of the money has been raised.
All that said, Duke fans can expect to see a major change to Wallace Wade Stadium in time for the 2014 season.
“All we know is were going to do something,” Cragg said. “There will be an impactful change in Wallace Wade Stadium between 2013 and ’14 for the fan experience and our players and programs.”
The new tower with luxury suites isn’t going to be part of it, he said. That wil not be done until after the 2014 season.
Duke also will build 35,000-square-foot building adjacent to the current Murray Building that will house ticket offices, a team store, offices for department personnel, training rooms and an expanded weight room for Olympic sports.
Dr. Steven and Rebecca Scott pledged to donate $10 million toward that project, known as the Scott Family Pavilion, which will support 600 Duke athletes.
Along with the Wallace Wade Stadium improvements and the Scott Family Pavilion, a third major planned project is a new entrance lobby to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
That will be built on the front of the venerable facility where the Whitford Circle currently stands. A pedestrian plaza will connect Cameron to the Scott Family Pavilion and Wallace Wade Stadium.
Those projects are down the road, though, as Duke’s fundraising continues. But the practice field construction means things are progressing.
“All of what gets done in terms of fundraising is still to be determined,” Cragg said. “We’re knocking down dominoes toward what will be the big chucks — the Wallace Wade tower, the front of Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Scott Family Pavilion.”