Some details have yet to be finalized – cost and location are two of the most important ones – but North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham is hopeful that UNC will build a new indoor football practice facility that will be ready to use within the next three years.
“The ideal timeline would be to be in it in three years, if not two,” Cunningham said recently. “Three is probably more likely.”
The UNC Board of Trustees last week approved plans to progress with the construction of an indoor practice facility. That approval came after the UNC Board of Governors approved funding to study the design and feasibility of an indoor practice facility at UNC.
There are still several unknowns surrounding the facility, though, including how much it would cost and where it would be built. Cunningham said new indoor college football practice facilities generally range between $15 million and $40 million.
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“Depending on what you put in it and what it sits on,” he said, “I would say that this is probably going to be in the $25 million neighborhood.”
The project, Cunningham said, would be entirely funded by the Rams Club, the athletic booster club at UNC. The facility will be built, Cunningham said, somewhere on the east side of campus near other athletics facilities.
“Anywhere within the Fetzer (Field), Eddie Smith (Field House), Navy Field footprint, as well as the Ehringhaus footprint,” Cunningham said. “Those are the two areas that we’re considering.”
The UNC football team practices on the Navy Fields, where it has two full-length practice fields. The team also uses the multipurpose Eddie Smith Field House, but it has only a 50-yard practice field. The height of the roof precludes kickers from practicing indoors.
The Ehringhaus Fields are near the Navy Field and are primarily used for club sports. UNC’s indoor facility could also be used for more than just football, Cunningham said.
“It’ll be designed for football, but it’ll be an indoor field that will be available for all kinds of uses,” he said.
Several schools in the ACC either are constructing indoor practice facilities or are already using newly constructed ones. N.C. State opened an indoor facility last summer that cost $14 million. Syracuse earlier this year opened one that cost $13 million.
Virginia Tech in September opened one that cost $21.3 million. Cunningham toured that one on Saturday before UNC’s 30-27 victory at Virginia Tech. He described it as “outstanding.”
Without a football-specific indoor facility, UNC is in the minority among teams in the ACC. It’s is the only ACC school in North Carolina without one.
“I think it’s another positive step, another investment in the program, another investment in the coaches and the students,” Cunningham said of the approval to build a facility. “But it’s also a facility that’s much-needed for the campus. So I think all of those things are part of the package of why it’s important for us to do that and for us to do it now.”