TowneBank Tower gets thumbs up from Pirate fans
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, August 18, 2019
ECU Pirate fans saw the treasure chest that is TowneBank Tower when the newly completed structure was opened for tours during Saturday's Meet The Pirates event at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
About 2,300 people walked through the founders' suites, loge boxes and other seating areas in the five-story press box and premium seating area, said Ryan Robinson, assistant athletics director for external operations.The $60 million project created 1,000 premium seats.
“This is a big-time facility. This is what draws kids and fans. It is awesome. I’m very happy,” said Tony McQueen, Class of 1987 and a Pirate Club member for 25 years. "It’s worth every penny."
As he paused at the Trade Club level, McQueen reminisced about watching games during his student years.
“When I came here there were basically two sets of bleachers, one on what was the upper deck side and one on this side (the tower side),” McQueen said. “There was no (Boneyard), no Murphy Center. There was nothing."
McQueen said it was a big deal when the Boneyard was built, creating a horseshoe-shaped stadium.
A number of people taking Saturday's tour thought back to their student years.
"It's hard to believe that muddy lot I use to tailgate in is now the track and field complex and baseball stadium," said Kevin Marshburn, Class of '91. He' has watched online videos of the ongoing construction and videos that simulated what the facility would look like once completed. The actual product exceeded his expectations.
"As long as I've been here ECU has had a commitment to athletics," Marshburn said. "Swimming, they just started a lacrosse team."
Marshburn's brother Neal, not an ECU graduate, worried that the investment may have been for nothing if the football team continues to lose. Kevin Marshburn wasn't worried.
"Only a real fan knows things like this happen in cycles for a school of this size," he said. The tower is a good investment because student athletes are ambassadors for the university, he said.
"It's what we need in terms of recruitment," said Phoenix Evans, an offensive tackle with the Pirates from 1998-2002.
A former associate athletics director at Stratford University in Virginia, Evans said when today's rising college football players talk about their choices, they talk about what is new and what looks good.
"From when I came through, what they've done, what they've built; it's amazing," said Evans, who brought his 4-year-old son, Phoenix Jr., to see the new facility and get a photograph with PeeDee the Pirate.
The TowneBank Tower brings a new, exciting atmosphere to East Carolina University, Evans said.
McQueen said ECU has invested in the right people — Athletics Director Jon Gilbert and football coach Mike Houston — so the Pirates soon will return to their winning ways.
McQueen said as much as he enjoyed touring the tower, he will be sitting where he has sat for the last 12 seasons, north side, section 17, when the Pirates meet Gardner-Webb University at the Sept. 7 home opener.
“We kind of have our group over there and we kind of like it,” McQueen said. He has sat on the north side since he was in college.
"Watching a game from here (the south side), I don’t know how to look at a game from here," McQueen said. "It would be weird. I like looking at it from the other side, with the Pirate upside down. It’s what I’m use to and I like it."
Slightly more than 5,000 fans also got autographs from football team members at the event, officials said.