ODU envisions new, 30,000toseat football stadium
ODU envisions new, 30,000toseat football stadium

Old Dominion ultimately plans to play major college football in a new, 30,000-seat on-campus stadium - not at Foreman Field - according to a proposal presented Monday to the executive committee of the Board of Visitors.

Board members were told of plans to build a new stadium on the site of the Powhatan Apartments dormitory complex at 48th Street and Powhatan Avenue, said sources who asked not to be identified. The nearly two-hour presentation was closed to the public.

The apartments, constructed between 1978 and 1982, would be demolished, and on-campus housing would be built to house the 700 students Powhatan Apartments holds.

The stadium would be designed so it could expand to 45,000 or more seats, sources said.

Although the stadium would not be on the Elizabeth River, many seats would have a water view, a rarity for a college football stadium.

Details of funding for the new stadium haven't been finalized and it isn't known how much a new stadium would cost. Nonetheless, sources indicate ODU hopes to have the new stadium open by 2017. If so, the stadium would be in place when ODU is scheduled to host Virginia Tech in 2018.

Dave Harnage, ODU's chief operating officer, presented the board with a summary of the university's new campus master plan, which ODU won't finalize until after the school hears feedback from students, faculty, neighborhood leaders and city officials. Determining how to expand or replace Foreman Field was a part of the master plan.

Board members seemed impressed with what they heard.

"I think it's something that's going to be palatable with all partners," said Fred J. Whyte, president of Stihl and rector of the Board of Visitors. "It will accommodate the growth that the university anticipates in all areas. It's something I believe we can all live with."

University officials and board members would not comment on details of the presentation.

Harnage and others working on the master plan determined it was not feasible to expand Foreman Field, sources said. The stadium, built in 1936, is hemmed in by university buildings and the Larchmont neighborhood. Although the stadium underwent a $24.9 million upgrade in 2009 when ODU launched football, engineers determined it would cost more to renovate the stadium and add seats than to build a new stadium.

Building an expansion on top of the clam shell-shaped east or west sides of the old stadium might not be feasible because the foundation of both structures is lacking. Expanding into the north end zone would require the demolition of a historical building.

Much of the stadium would be demolished and would provide space for student housing, sources said.

The AstroTurf field would be retained as recreational space. Also likely to remain is most or all of the Ainslie Football Complex - the south-end-zone structure of suites, locker rooms, a parking deck and other facilities. It likely would be turned into a conference center.

Most of the nearly $25 million ODU spent in 2009 was for the new field and the Ainslie complex.

ODU announced last year that it is moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of college football. The Monarchs begin playing in Conference USA in 2014. Officials determined that Foreman Field's 20,066 seats and its antiquated restroom, concessions, media area and dressing room facilities are inadequate for an FBS program.

ODU has sold out all 29 games played at Foreman Field, and all six home games this season are already sold out. Based on the wait list for season tickets, school officials say, there is a demand for thousands more seats.

More than a year ago, ODU President John Broderick initiated the move to generate a new master plan to account for campus growth for the next decade or two. ODU's last master plan was completed in 1995, and Broderick said a new plan was needed to deal with expected increases in enrollment and greater demand for student housing and research facilities, as well as to help reorganize the campus.

Harnage, who helped develop master plans at James Madison, Towson and Longwood universities, led the ODU master campus plan effort.

Details of most of the proposed master plan aren't known, but it deals with every building on campus, from academic space to residence halls. The new stadium is just a part of the plan, which also calls for an expansion of the Webb Student Center and ODU's Virginia Beach campus.

Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim said Monday he expects to be briefed by Broderick on the plan later this week.

"We have a long history of working with Old Dominion University," said Fraim, adding that he's "hopeful" the city can support the changes ODU plans to make.

Officials said when the campus master plan process was launched that they did not plan to take any more land from surrounding neighborhoods. Sources said that instead of expanding outward, ODU will build up - new buildings will be taller in order to compensate for the university's relative lack of land.

The plan also recommends that there be no more private development in the University Village. All remaining vacant land in the University Village - a mixture of athletic facilities, parking decks, classrooms and private development - would be used only for academic or residential facilities.

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