ECU stadium ceremony tops off Pirate hopes
By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector
Friday, July 13, 2018
A bright yellow steel beam was placed beside the statue of PeeDee the Pirate in the courtyard outside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Thursday.
It was signed with purple markers by ECU alumni, Board of Trustees members and administrators, then hoisted by a crane to its final destination — as the last steel beam to be used in the stadium renovation project.
The trustees and staff took a break from their scheduled quarterly meeting to participate in a topping-out ceremony that celebrated progress on the $60-million project. With nearly $33 million funded by Pirate Club supporters, the stadium is on track to have its temporary southside press box, light towers and most of the “white” parking lot outside complete in time for this year’s first home football game, officials have said.
The project will add about 1,000 premium seats in a four-story structure that will house a new club level, suites and loge boxes.
“This is an incredibly celebratory occasion for Pirates and ECU athletics,” Chancellor Cecil Staton told the midday gathering. “It’s hard to believe that about four months ago the first piece of steel was placed into the ground and now here we are on the day that the last piece of steel will be added to this incredible structure.”
Staton said the facility is in keeping with with the university’s athletic traditions and programs.
“What I’m really excited about is what this means for the game-day experiences of Pirate fans and the impression our fans get when they come to the first game of the season and see ... what a wonderful addition this is going to be to our program,” he said.
Dave Hart, special adviser to the chancellor for athletics, said that although his role is to bring Staton information about where the university’s athletic program stands, it is more important to pay attention to where it is headed.
“Our level of investment has to match our level of expectation,” he told the stadium supporters. “”It’s been an interesting challenge and I can tell you from the passion of this fan base that I have no reason to doubt that we will reach all of our goals. Go Pirates!”
Kieran Shanahan, chairman of the ECU Board of Trustees, said the ceremony provided an opportunity to reflect on the growth and development occurring at the university.
“The tearing down of the old stadium and press box is a metaphor for what’s going on not only in our athletics department but in our university,” Shanahan said. “We have to tear down the old to make way for the new. The sound you hear (at the construction site) is the sound of progress and the anticipation we look forward to as (ECU head football coach) Scottie Montgomery takes the field and leads out the 2018 Pirates to start the season.”
Jason Wells and Laura Miller, representatives of Frank Blum and T.A. Loving construction contractors and design and architectural firm LS3P, respectively, said they were grateful to contribute to a facility that means a great deal to the Pirate nation and eastern North Carolina.
Montgomery thanked Staton and the trustees for their support of the program and players. He noted that he did not take much vacation time this year because he spent his free time watching the construction project’s progress.
“I’m reminded that the building process is not a pretty event, but a necessary one,” he said. “You will see this program and this university continue to grow into what we all expect.”
As he watched the beam raised, Montgomery said his players are excited about the game day atmosphere the stadium renovation will create. Concurrent with the football stadium project, a first-floor reconstruction of the Ward Sports Medicine building is taking place, including a new athletic trainers’ facility, football locker room, lounge and equipment room.
“Our players see a lot on the road at other universities, and this puts us right at the top with the others for stadium atmosphere as far as they’re concerned,” Montgomery said. “The other part is what we’ve been able to do in the (new) training room, equipment room and locker room. They didn’t have that when we got here. The Pirate Club and Pirate Nation worked really hard collectively, with the trustees and Dave Hart to put additions into our equipment room. It’s just been a blessing.”
Montgomery said he could see his players’ excitement and motivation match the growth they were seeing as the stadium project continued.
“Any time you’re a part of something being built, you naturally want to do well on the field and take care of what you’re building,” he said. “I stay motivated, but it’s great to be part of a building process. It’s not easy to do and sometimes it was an inconvenience for practices, but that we see things coming into place, it adds an overtone to what we hope will happen with the program.”
Construction will continue between games until the project is complete, with projections for June 2019.
While in session, the Board of Trustees unanimously re-elected Shanahan to another one-year term as chairman. Vern Davenport and Kel Norman were re-elected to second one-year terms as board vice chairman and secretary, respectively.
ECU Senior Jordan Koonts, with a double major in public relations and political science, was sworn in as the 2018-19 president of the Student Government Association by Pitt County Clerk of Courts Sara Beth Fulford Rhodes. Koonts will represent the students on the board of Trustees. Rhodes’ daughter, Lillie Rhodes, a senior in the Honors College majoring in political science and communication, will serve as SGA vice president.
“I will work tirelessly to represent each of you,” Koonts said. “Not many institutions in this country place as much weight on student opinions and desires as ours does. Creating an environment conducive to the success of every Pirate is crucial to my personal goals and those of the SGA.”
Contact Michael Abramowitz at email@example.com or 252-329-9507.