DURHAM — Recently, I was able to sit down with Mike Cragg, Dukes deputy director of athletics that oversees mens basketball, and, more pertinently, facilities and planning. We chatted about the progress of the plans outlined for athletics in September 2012 as part of Duke Forward, the $3.25 billion, University-wide capital campaign. Part of that campaign includes $250 million earmarked for athletics, mainly facilities upgrades.
So, with the historic football season in the rear-view mirror (save that Dec. 31 date in Atlanta), why not take a look at where facilities planning stands.
Laura Keeley: What is going to be different with Wallace Wade by the start of next football season?
Mike Cragg: It will be a construction zone. Its really going to be a construction zone for the next three years, to be quite honest. The changes will be fairly cosmetic in nature and developing. Weve got to do a number of steps in the concourse with ADA (Americans with Disabilities act and the required building codes) and tearing down of old before we can build new. We will start with the East Gate, the furthest from the (press box), so the Blue Zone parking for students, that entrance, so that will all be totally redone. But will it be done, done for August? It wont be done. But it will be operational.
And then were looking at some other changes in the bowl itself that will be evident for next year. But mostly, it will just be under construction. There wont be a significant change.
We have decided to couple the lowering of the field and the building of the tower as one fell swoop and also construct our track and field stadium first. So, as we started getting closer to that, that became the reality. Really, the major, major stuff will be in the fall of 2014. But starting, we hope for the spring football game, there will be the fencing up and it will be a construction zone.
LK: So the track will be there next season?
MC: It will be, yes.
LK: Ive seen the new practice fields going up along 751 (Cameron Blvd).
MC: They are, and we get the occupancy for those this week. Were real excited about that, and that was the first domino that needed to take place. There was an idea to skip a year without a track, and then we decided against that, for a number of reasons. We now will start the track stadium in January. Koskinen (soccer and lacrosse stadium) has already started right now with some bleacher replacement and lights being changed and the sound system. And then Kennedy Tower (named for longtime senior deputy director of athletics Chris Kennedy and his late wife, Ana), which will be the new press box that oversees track and soccer and lacrosse on both sides. So that whole complex, really, its already started if you were to look out there.
(Note: the track stadium will be Williams Track and Field stadium, for Morris and Ruth Williams, both alumni, who donated $5 million to the athletic department in May. They also are the namesake for the field hockey field on East Campus).
LK: So after the 2014 football season is when things will really heat up.
MC: The Finch Yeager Building will be torn down (the sports medicine office that doubles as a press box), the track will be taken out, the field will be lowered, a new scoreboard will be put in. It will be an all-new ballgame. We will have the field all ready to go, obviously, by the 2015 season. Were going to try to get as much of the tower done as possible for 2015 (with a new press box, as well as club seating and suites), but it probably wont be fully functional. And then the rest of the concourse and stadium will be all done, really, then as well.
LK: What do the Cameron Indoor Stadium plans look like?
MC: The Cameron plans will open up the front of Cameron after the 2014-15 season, so basically spring of 2015, 18 months from now. We will start construction of that, which will be two levels, taking out the whole circle area and turning that into the plaza (thats the side that faces Wallace Wade, not the student and media entrance side). Well have a big, grand entrance to Cameron, well have a club up on the second level, which does not change the bowl of Cameron itself.
And then at the same time, we will start with Scott Pavilion, which is the wrap-around the Murray building, and that will be our Olympic sports training center (Steven and Rebecca Scott donated $10 million to Duke athletics in October 2012). That will be Olympic sports training, administration, ticket office and team store. Once those projects are all done with the whole new front of Wallace Wade at the North gate, then well have a whole new plaza and gathering space.
LK: With the softball news, obviously there are a few years until that, but have you guys started thinking about that facility?
MC: We have. If you go back to the beginning of the master facilities plan (in 2008), when we took a comprehensive look at student rec, club intramurals and intercollegiate athletics, we looked at softball and/or more field space.
Weve identified, and its in the master plan, back behind the Thomas Center theres a research field up in that area that is relatively flat (this is on Science drive, just past the law school). A relatively small amount of trees would be taken down. Theres some opportunity, theyre (the University) going to be looking at reconfiguring the Thomas Center area, so we can play off of that over the next couple of years.
We will need to fundraise. We will probably officially identify that plot of land in the next year. But its not just a stadium, because we decided with the student rec and intramurals and club that it will be two fields. One will be an intercollegiate, varsity field that will have a stadium that seats 500-1,000 people, a championship-level facility. And then next to it will be a student rec, club sports, second practice field. Its really been looked at for the past five, six years.
LK: Just one more question I had forgotten, bunker suites in Cameronis that still part of the plan?
MC: We will look at that. Basically, once the Scott Pavilion is built, all of our administration will be out of Cameron. Compliance, sports information, business, marketing, promotions, video, IT, all of that space will be wiped out. Well look at the opportunity at that point for some amenities. It could be bunker suites. We will also take a look at mens and womens basketball, what needs there are in training and all of that. And, frankly, well look at the media space as well and how we could reconfigure that. Well take a look at all those areas and whatever else comes up in the next three years. But bunker suites are a possibility.
The problem with bunker suites, if you will, is that theres no view of the court, which is fine, but you do have to have seats for those people. So, to buy a suite, youre going to have to find 10-12 seats somewhere in Cameron. We have not figured that out yet, to be quite honest with you. Where do we pull from that, how do we get that done?
As we build out the new tower for the football stadium, were looked at, and we will utilize that tower for home basketball, just like we will have the club space in Cameron for football, so we are able to, hopefully, multiply our revenue.
Thanks to Mike for his time.