03/27/09 — ECU athletic facilities will undergo facelifts

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ECU athletic facilities will undergo facelifts

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 27, 2009 1:47 PM

Passers-by won't recognize the corner of Charles Boulevard in Greenville by 2012.

Athletics officials from East Carolina unveiled a schematic plan that will drastically change the tree-filled area, which is the current golf-disc field.

A three-phase project is scheduled to begin in June and conclude in 2012 with the construction of an office building for Olympic sports behind Clark-LeClair Stadium on the ECU campus. The first phase includes a new softball facility that should be ready by February 2010.

The second phase is a track complex, women's soccer field and nine tennis courts. The third phase is the Olympic sports building that will house coaches and feature other amenities.

All three phases should cost about $20 million and no private funding is planned. ECU officials said at Thursday's annual meeting of the Wayne County Pirate Club that the expense is being handled through student fees, which will steadily increase to help pay off the debt.

But that's not all.

Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is expected to undergo a considerable facelift in early December. The $40-million project includes adding 7,000 end-zone seats for students and re-arranging Pirate Club seating. T.A. Loving, a well-known construction company in Goldsboro, has been contracted to handle the end-zone job.

Plans are in place to improve the press box and add 32 corporate-sponsored suites. Once those projects are completed, school officials have planned to construct a basketball practice facility beside Minges Coliseum.

"Of course, construction depends on season ticket sales for 2009 and Pirate Club season-ticket renewals for 2008," said Jimmy Bass, senior associate athletics director for external operations. "We have to add at least 4,000 tickets in our season inventory and we're being really careful about how we handle that right now because of the economy.

"If we don't start construction in 2,009, we will start in 2,010."

Davis said the improvements would help bolster ECU's image in Conference USA, and give it the chance to host conference and regional tournaments.

While Pirate Club members buzzed about the proposed upgrades that will increase ECU's image as a top-notch athletic program, they also got an inside look at the men's basketball, women's basketball and football teams.

Sharon Baldwin-Tener (women), Mack McCarthy (men) and assistant football coach Donnie Kirkpatrick were on hand to field questions about their respective teams.

Three seniors helped guide ECU to an 18-13 record and quarterfinal-round appearance in the 2009 CUSA tournament. But Baldwin-Tener and her players were disappointed in the overall outcome and felt they were better than their final record indicated.

"The good news is the players were disappointed," said Baldwin-Tener, who just completed her seventh season. "I gave them a week off for spring break and gave them another week off before we started postseason conditioning and postseason workouts.

"Three of our players were in my office asking me why we weren't practicing. 'We need to be in the gym coach. We're not going to get better if we're not practicing.'"

ECU will need that attitude since its playing a schedule next season that includes several 2009 NCAA tournament and Women's NIT participants.

McCarthy's Pirates lost their final six games and finished 13-17 overall. Despite the late-season futility, his team recorded its best showing against CUSA opposition and beat two teams for the first time in 21 years -- in-state archrival UNC Wilmington and Winthrop.

Two seniors graduate, but McCarthy's cupboard isn't bare. He's recruited a solid corps of players and all of the underclassmen who saw considerable playing time this season will be invaluable in 2009-2010.

Included in that mix is Goldsboro High graduate Daquan Joyner, who continues to recover from a broken foot. Joyner saved the Pirates with a 14-point, eight-rebound effort against Virginia Commonwealth last season, but missed the remainder of the year.

Kirkpatrick touched on the Pirates' CUSA championship season and spoke about the schedule, which includes home dates against three-time FCS champion Appalachian State and 2009 ACC/Orange Bowl champion Virginia Tech.

Most of this year's 20-player recruiting class, which included 16 honor-roll student-athletes, will be red-shirted. Kirkpatrick added that last season's freshman class is getting some work during the 15-day spring practice allowed by the NCAA.

Kirkpatrick commented that several of the Pirates' returning players who were injured last season are still sidelined.