Fetzer Field replacement at UNC-Chapel Hill nears final approval hurdle

CHAPEL HILL -- After this week, UNC-Chapel Hill officials should have only one hoop left to jump through before securing the green light to go ahead with the replacement of Fetzer Field and the construction of another indoor practice field for its football team.

On Wednesday, the campus trustees’ finance committee signed off the final design of the twin sports facilities, which will cost the university’s Rams Club an estimated $55 million. Approval by the full board, which meets Thursday, customarily follows.

Because officials figure on using bonds as an interim financing measure pending receipt of donations from sports boosters, the project needs a final OK from the N.C. General Assembly, said Matt Fajack, vice chancellor for finance and administration.

Legislators are in session this spring and customarily deal with university capital requests at about the time they complete their work on the annual state budget. That’s due in June, but in some years they haven’t hit the June 30 deadline for getting a budget passed.

The project’s already been through the statewide UNC system’s Board of Governors, where campus officials encountered complaints about a piecemeal review process that didn’t give board members a good look at the university’s overall construction strategy.

The Fetzer Field replacement targets the longtime home of the university’s soccer, lacrosse and track teams, both men’s and women’s. The indoor practice building will add to the football team’s facilities and rise next to a purpose-built stadium for soccer and lacrosse.

Two more outdoor fields will go in nearby, displacing UNC-Chapel Hill’s field hockey team. It’ll eventually move to a new home that’ll be built on Ehringhaus Field, a campus meadow now used for intramurals and club sports.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services Anna Wu said the field-hockey project will likely cost another $14.2 million. It’ll include an artificial-turf field, seating for 950 spectators, a press box and a “team facility” for players and coaches.

The Rams Club and its members are also footing that bill, she said.

The track team is likely to move to a new track that UNC will build near Finley Golf Course.

Wu said in designing Fetzer’s replacement and the football team’s practice building, architects kept on eye on the need to improve east-west routes for campus pedestrians.

At the moment there’s no shortcut through the area, so people have to use to the sidewalks along Ridge Road and South Road to get around it. But the new construction will include an east-west concourse that gives foot traffic another option.

Wu said that for cost reasons, designers dropped the idea of using awnings to shade spectators at the new soccer and lacrosse stadium from the sun and rain.

“All the seating is open,” she said, adding that the awnings seen in some early drawings were “value-engineered out” out of the project to stay in the budget.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg