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UNH stadium project gets USNH trustees' approval

Union Leader correspondent

June 27. 2014 2:55PM

An artist's rendering of the new UNH football stadium that was approved by the USNH Board of Trustees Friday. UNH Courtesy PHOTO 

DURHAM — The University of New Hampshire’s plans to renovate it's athletic complex and stadium got a major boost Friday when the University System of New Hampshire’s Board of Trustees approved plans for the $25 million project, which is part of the campus' master plan.

The trustees’ approval came after the university raised $5 million in private donations for the project.

The remainder will be paid for with $20 million the university will raise or borrow internally from the university system, according to UNH spokesman Erika Mantz.

“The university plans to seek internal borrowing for the additional $20 million, with an anticipated payback to the system over the next five years,” said Mantz. “Fundraising will also continue.”

No additional state approvals are needed for the project to continue, Mantz said.

The complex, to be named West Stadium, will include a football stadium with more than 10,000 seats, including the 6,500 seats now at Cowell Stadium, which is nearly 70 years old.

“Our athletic facilities and venues were identified as a priority in the campus’ master plan in order to improve recruitment, student satisfaction, and our overall visibility in an increasingly competitive marketplace,” UNH President Mark Huddleston said. “I am very pleased that the project is moving forward with the support of so many people throughout the state.”

The new complex will have increased and improved seating in a new home grandstand on the west side that will include state-of-the art broadcast and WiFi capability, concessions, restrooms, and a special student section, according to Mantz.

This summer lights are being installed and seating on the east side of the facility is being upgraded.

“The renovated athletic complex will enhance the experience for our fans and aid recruiting efforts as the home of UNH’s football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s track and field teams,” UNH Athletic Director Marty Scarano said.

In addition to benefiting UNH athletes and their fans, Huddleston said the facility will be a resource for the entire state, allowing the university to host more state, regional, and national competitions and events like Special Olympics, concerts, and high school championship games.

State Rep. Kenneth Weyler of Kingston has been a critic of university spending in the past, but said he is pleased to see UNH putting a greater focus on fundraising and private donations.

“I've been critical about the lack of fundraising in the past compared to other schools,” said Weyler. “They have seemed to rely on state (money) and tuition hikes.”

Weyler noted that UNH is far from the only school in danger of pricing itself out of the reach of many students.

“I've seen progress in recent years, but I still think they have a tuition and a budget that is too high,” Weyler said.

The stadium is the latest university building to undergo a makeover.

McConnell Hall is undergoing a $10 million renovation to upgrade classrooms and house the university’s sociology and psychology departments, and the Peter T. Paul College of Business opened a new $50 million building last year.

Those buildings were funded by a combination of donations, state funding and internal borrowing, according to Mantz..

Other academic buildings recently renovated include Parsons, James and DeMeritt halls, academic buildings whose renovations, totaling more than $100 million, were largely funded by the state.

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