RALEIGH — Shaw University officials announced on Wednesday that its football team would move its home games to Millbrook High School this season, ending its rental relationship with Durham County Stadium.
The Bears, who for the past two seasons have used Durham County Stadium, also have reduced prices for adult tickets from $25 to $15 a game in a push to attract more local support.
The university had not entered a long-term contract and was free to opt out of signing another agreement with Durham County Stadium, Shaw interim athletic director Marcus Clarke said.
The decision comes on the heels of news of financial troubles at the university and a major administration shake-up, in which interim Shaw President Dorothy Cowser Yancy replaced Clarence G. Newsome.
Clarke said the decision to play closer to campus was based on the administration's desire to reconnect with the community.
He said Yancy's vision includes using athletics to improve school spirit among students and alumni, something that is difficult to achieve when the football team plays outside of the university community.
"If we really try to engage the Raleigh community, it would be harder to engage them from in Durham," he said. "That's not where Shaw is located.
"Durham has been good to us, but it's hard to get sponsors to spend money up the road. ... Raleigh is our home."
Clarke said moving closer to home will not save the athletics department money in terms of renting a facility, though it will save money long-term by eliminating the need to transport students.
Before playing at Durham County Stadium, the Bears, who are a Division II team in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, played home games at Northern Durham High. For a team that had just reinstated football in 2002, moving to a larger stadium in 2007 was viewed as a positive step forward in building a program.
Shaw administrators had hoped to team with St. Augustine's College to build a stadium in Raleigh with public funds. The plan failed to muster enough support from city and county leaders to move forward, however.
Shaw officials still talk of possibly building a home stadium.Meanwhile, they will host games in North Raleigh.
"Some people may look at it as a step back," Clarke said. "If we want to make [a stadium] a realistic vision, we have to lay the foundation now."
Bleachers will be added to increase the current capacity of 4,000 seats surrounding Millbrook's natural-grass field. Shaw has five home games this season, including its Aug. 29 season-opener against Elizabeth City State.
Millbrook athletic director Scott McInnes said the contract with Shaw was negotiated through Wake County Schools. As part of the arrangement, Shaw will help maintain Millbrook's field.
"We're glad to have them," McInnes said.
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