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Stadium project officially launched

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Ground is broken for the construction of the south side of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Jan. 11, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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BY NATHAN SUMMERS
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Although the dirt that soiled their gold shovels had been staged under a tent to protect it from turning to mud in the afternoon drizzle, there was no faking the rattling of jackhammers, beeping of reversing trucks and steady hum of cranes in operation in the background.

East Carolina waited until Thursday afternoon to gather school officials, coaches and Pirate Club members adjacent to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to celebrate the start of a $60 million renovation to the school’s football home, but the sounds of construction already well under way were the backdrop to the event.

“We needed to do some things that made a statement, but we needed to do them with a purpose,” ECU director of athletics Jeff Compher said of the Southside Renovation Project that includes a new press box, a premium seating tower and many new ways to experience games. “We needed to do them in a way that would add some things to the fan experience as well as the student-athlete experience.”

Compher reiterated that the first step in rethinking the stadium experience was to ask fans what they wanted, and the work being done in the periphery of the groundbreaking reflected that.

Results of surveys helped to lay the early groundwork for the project, which also aimed to improve the daily lives of athletes by redesigning the football locker room and the training rooms in the Ward Sports Medicine Building, things that Compher said “hadn’t been looked at in 30 years.”

Also addressing the crowd were ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton, Pirate Club Director Phillip Wood and ECU football coach Scottie Montgomery, all of whom grabbed a shovel afterward for a ceremonial turning of the dirt.

The project is slated for completion in 16 to 18 months, and Compher said $30 million has been raised to this point.

“Turn around and you can see the timeline in action,” Compher said. “We didn’t ask them to stop work. We asked them to keep going while we’re here today.”

Compher also noted the demolition of the bottom floor of the Ward Building was complete, and the press box was among the first things removed from the stadium.

Montgomery said there is an increased feeling of self worth anytime someone moves into a newer, nicer place, and likened the stadium project to that feeling.

“What the Pirate Club and Pirate Nation have given us the ability to do is prepare,” Montgomery said. “I’ve probably been as guilty as anyone else of using the terms winning and losing too much. The thought should be placed more on preparation. That’s exactly what the Southside Renovation Project gives us the ability to do. It gives us the ability to train our student-athletes at the highest possible level in the conference and in the country.”

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

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