MANCHESTER --- The University of New Hampshire is getting closer to having a new home for its NCAA championship-chasing football team.
Marty Scarano, UNH’s director of athletics, told a luncheon gathering of the Manchester Rotary Club on Monday at Fratello’s that the school had passed its fund-raising target of $5 million for the project.
“We’re a little north of the 5 million (dollars). About 5.1,” Scarano said after the luncheon. Fundraising continues.
In late January, UNH announced plans for the new facility and said the goal was to raise $5 million privately and when that was accomplished, the school would seek to borrow an additional $20 million internally.
UNH administrators will head to the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees June meeting late next week and Scarano said he anticipates getting approval for the project at that point.
The goal, he said, during a question-and-answer period, is to finish design and permitting work and put shovels in the ground in late fall, in October or November.
UNH president Mark Huddleston has been a major backer of the proposal.
“He was the first to say, ‘Now’s the time to do this,’ ” Scarano said.
Huddleston has said he’d like to see the stadium ready to host UNH’s final home game of the regular season, an annual clash with Maine, in November of 2015.
“I think that’s pretty optimistic,” Scarano said. “But he’s the boss, so we’ll see.”
Head football coach Sean McDonnell joined Scarano for Monday’s presentation, which also included discussions of two projects that are already under way.
Lights are currently being installed that will allow for night games for the upcoming season. Also, in front of the UNH Field House, a new $1.9 academic center — that money was also raised — is being added.
“It’s going to happen and it should happen, not for us, for everybody,” McDonnell said of finally getting a new facility that has been talked about for years. “That’s the whole thing. This is something that our university needs and more importantly our whole state needs. We’re going to benefit for a lot of reasons, but I’m just thrilled we’re going to get something for everybody that represent what the University of New Hampshire is.”
School officials have stressed all along that the facility will be used for multiple events, including UNH lacrosse and soccer contests, state high school championships and concerts.
The addition of lights this summer is allowing the NHIAA to hold all three of its high school football championships at the same site on Nov. 22.
The plans for the new stadium — which is currently being referred to as the West Stadium, though Scarano said there have been discussions with corporations interested in naming rights — call for the home stands to be on the opposite side of where they are now located.
The facility will seat between 10,500 and 11,000 people, Scarano said.
McDonnell, who played at UNH under Bill Bowes, took over the top job for the 1999 season and Scarano arrived at UNH from Colorado College the next summer.
The Wildcats have been to the FCS playoffs each of the past 10 seasons — the longest streak in the country — and have been picked in the top five to start the 2014 campaign by some organizations.
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GAME TIMES for football contests in the fall have not been finalized yet, but should be shortly, Scarano said.
He said the Dartmouth game at home in Cowell Stadium will be at either 6 or 7 p.m.
UNH’s first of six home games is against Lehigh on Sept. 13.
Scarano also said there is a set of possible game times: They will be at 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. or 6 p.m. Games at 6 may be changed to 7 if they are televised.
The Wildcats open the season at Toledo on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.
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UNH junior John Prizzi turned in an impressive performance over the weekend in the NCAA Outdoor Track championships in Eugene, Ore.
Prizzi gained All-American honors with his eighth-place result in the steeplechase. His time of 8:44.02 in the finals was less than two seconds off the school record 8:42.20 he ran at the regionals on May 31.
Prizzi was the first UNH male to compete at the NCAA finals since Dean Kimball in 1981.