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The new Fick: Stadium plan caters to the modern fan

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An artist's rendering shows the field-level club area planned for the west end zone at East Carolina's Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, August 13, 2017

It is not necessarily for fans who want spend the day in the same elements as the football players while sitting on aluminum bench seats similar to the ones those same players sit on when taking a breather.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the new Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is not about that. It is about the modernization of the entire game day experience, from parking to quality of seating to entirely new options of things to do and places to be when the Pirates are on the gridiron.

The $55 million Southside Renovation Project being overseen by East Carolina director of athletics Jeff Compher is an attempt to take a day out at ECU to a new level, while leaving the traditional game day of tailgating and cheering untouched.

“This is not for everyone, but for those who want it, we have it now,” Compher said of the substantial overhaul that will bring a new press box, redesigned seating, viewing boxes and parking, a new football locker room, a new ticket office, new vantage points of the field and more. “It says, ‘Look at the commitment they’ve made to further the game day experience for their fan base.’

“Some people say, ‘I’d rather stay at home and watch it on TV,’” Compher said. “This gives you the comforts of home but also provides you that social interaction that maybe you wouldn’t have at home. It’s going to be a very social environment there.”

The state has given approval for the project, allowing construction partners to finalize their cost estimates, Compher said. Once the estimates are approved by the university the bidding process will begin for contractors.

Early work includes moving the ticket office currently located in the shadow of the stadium’s home grandstand.

“We’re going to have some internal moves for a while when this is going on,” Compher said, noting that concessions in the same part of the stadium will also be affected. “A lot of the things you never see — underground, electrical and other kinds of utility work that needs to be done in association with a project like this.”

The big facelift comes as soon as the last second of the last home game is played, and it comes with an intricate set of details to be ironed out as it goes.

The press box will be one of the first major demolitions or extractions from the existing structure, Compher said, along with the football team being uprooted temporarily from its locker room in the Ward Sports Medicine Building adjacent to the Murphy Center.

“All those things are going to start happening in the spring. We have to move out of Ward, relocate the team, relocate the training room, relocate our equipment room — all of those things have to happen as a process,” Compher said.

The short-term headaches should give way to a completely new look for The Fick on game days.

The entirely reconstructed south side of the stadium will serve as the new centerpiece, and again Compher stressed most of the changes are driven by wanting fans to be able to watch, socialize and be catered to if they wish. A big part of the change is the seating choice. The tower will have a new club level with seating, in addition to loge boxes, standard suites and founder’s suites.

Compher is quick to point out, however, that the experience begins with premium parking, and it’s more than just its proximity to the stadium gates.

“You’re able to pull in and plug your TV into cable, plug in your phone” Compher said.

The entire south grandstand will be overhauled with a new brick facade and four elevators for service to the upper levels and boxes. It will have one main tower running up the middle that will give access to other areas and new game day traditions. In all, 1,000 premium seats and a new press area Compher described as “much more professional” will be contained in the tower, along with the club lounge area.

“When you go into our new tower, every person that enters in there will have access to a game day buffet for everyone — that includes all the suite holders, the loge box holders as well as the club area holders,” Compher said. “What we found and what we believe is that people want to associate with each other on game day and be able to talk and visit and make connections about the game or about the community or about just about what they have going on in their lives.

“That’s what separates this from other opportunities.”

Also on the way as part of the project are considerable renovations to the Ward Building and Scales Field House, as well as the construction of a hitting facility for the ECU baseball and softball teams.

Another of the unique football features will be a field-level club in front of the Murphy Center and behind the west end zone. It is one of the features Compher thinks will help set the Pirates’ football home apart.

“Fans will be able to enjoy the game from that field-level end zone experience but also be able to have an adult beverage and enjoy some concessions and use that as a gathering place,” Compher said, adding that he hopes the project will “complete” the game day experience for fans. “It maybe not your primary viewing point for the game, but knowing you can go there and get a unique perspective on the game, I think we have to do more of that to help the fan experience.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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