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An inside look at TowneBank Tower

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An event space remains under construction in the TowneBank Tower at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on April 23, 2019. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector)

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

With hints of the football press box and suites buildings already in place at the University of Cincinnati, TCU and Wake Forest as guiding posts, East Carolina University is in the final few months of putting a unique Pirate touch on the TowneBank Tower that should greatly enhance Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for home ECU football games.

Completing the five-story TowneBank Tower, which is replacing the previous press box structure that was installed in 1977, is the final and major piece of ECU’s $60 million Southside Renovation Project initiated in March of 2016.

The infrastructure for the tower is mainly set, and crews from T.A. Loving Co. and Frank L. Blum Construction are focusing on the intricacies of the inside that already provide views of nearby facilities and by the fall will feature new high-tech and social options for fans on game days. The project remains on track for a July completion.

“The first thing is it passes the look test,” athletics director Jon Gilbert said Tuesday during a tour for local media members. “It should enhance our game day atmosphere and enhance our recruiting as well. … I want it to be a first-class experience, starting in the parking lot and then the way (fans) are greeted at the stadium and certainly their experience in the seats.”

Gilbert was hired from Southern Miss in December, vaulting him into the mix with ECU senior athletics administrators J.J. McLamb and Phillip Wood and into the forefront of the most extensive project to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium since it opened in 1963.

Below the working media area at the top of the tower are spacious levels of premium seating consisting of five founder’s suites, 19 standard suites, 22 loge boxes and 550 scholarship club level seats.

In addition to its most obvious use for Pirate football games, Gilbert said that the scholarship club level also will be available for people to rent and use for other parties and events.

“The club level is a sports bar type of atmosphere up here,” Gilbert said when he was asked what might be his favorite area in TowneBank Tower. “We talk about what we can use it for other than the six Saturdays per year, and this room will be used for a multitude of functions from weddings to us using it for recruiting. This room really excites me.”

Only a few suites remain for sale. Wood, who is the Pirate Club executive director, said the Pirates have passed the halfway mark of sales for the scholarship level seats.

ECU recently lowered the minimum annual gift to the Pirate Club to be eligible to buy a scholarship level seat, changing that minimum requirement from $5,300 to $2,000.

“(The adjustment) has created what we had hoped for,” Wood said of increasing those sales.

The Pirate football team, which will be led this year by a new coach in Mike Houston after his most recent winning stint at James Madison, will begin its new season on Aug. 31 at rival N.C. State. The first home game is the following Saturday, Sept. 7, against a college football second-tier opponent in Gardner-Webb.

This year’s home schedule also features a Thursday night game on Oct. 3 versus Temple.

Many donors and financial supporters of the new tower already have toured the building. Gilbert also wants to hold an open-house type of event for all fans.

“I feel really good and see progress from week to week,” Gilbert said. “We anticipate the project to be finished in July. We’ll get through a list of items like furniture and graphics, and we plan on having a ribbon-cutting sometime in mid-August.

“It is really important for me that not only the people who have invested into this project get to see it, but I really want to have a day where anybody who wants to come and see this structure can have the opportunity to walk through it,” he said. “Not everybody can sit in it (during games) and we only have so many seats, but you will be able to rent it for a multitude of functions.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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