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January 31. 2014 8:18PM

UNH plans to build new $25 million athletic complex


UNH plans to build a new $25 million athletic complex to replace aging Cowell Stadium, shown here. (COURTESY)

The University of New Hampshire on Friday announced plans for a new $25 million athletic complex that will be home to the school's football team.

UNH has played its football games in Cowell Stadium - "one of the most out-of-date stadiums in the entire nation," director of athletics Marty Scarano said in a press release - since the 1930s.

School and athletics department officials stressed the facility will be utilized for a variety of events.

The school had previously announced a project that is scheduled to begin this spring and add lights around the football field and renovate seating in what is now the home side of the field behind the UNH Field House. The lighting is due to be in place for the 2014 season.

The goal is to have the new facility ready for the 2015 season. It will seat more than 10,000 and is being referred to as the West Stadium. It will sit opposite the Field House.

"A new venue will allows us to host more state regional and national competitions like Special Olympics, concerts and high school championship games," Scarano said.

"These initial steps are exciting not only for our students but for the greater Durham community and the state," UNH president Mark Huddleston said in the release. "A new athletic complex will help us build spirit and pride in the state's flagship public university and directly benefit the local economy."

A UNH release announcing the facility said it will not move forward until the school raises $5 million in donations. The university said it plans to seek internal borrowing for the other $20 million and that the cost of the project will be absorbed within the school's current five-year financial planning model.

UNH officials reviewed plans for the facility with the finance committee of the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees on Thursday in Plymouth. The release said the school will make a more detailed request to the Trustees at their April meeting.

Plans call for the new stadium to have improved seating, state-of-the-art broadcast and WiFi capacity, concessions, rest rooms and a student section.

"To me, it's something that has been in discussion for a bunch of years and it keeps getting closer and closer all the time," said UNH football coach Sean McDonnell. "The way I look at it we keep taking steps to where we need to go and we're going in the right direction. . . People are engaging the alumni and others and the people in administration want to work to make this a special place."

McDonnell wrapped up his 15th year as UNH's head coach in December with one of the school's best football seasons. The Wildcats qualified for the FCS national tournament for the 10th straight season - which is the longest streak in the nation - and advanced to the tournament semifinals for the first time.

They lost at North Dakota State, 52-14, in the semis and finished with a 10-5 record.


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