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Athletics facility projects beginning to take shape

The new Morris Williams Track and Field complex will house the team's runners and throwers at the same venue.
The new Morris Williams Track and Field complex will house the team's runners and throwers at the same venue.

With the completion and dedication of Kennedy Tower Saturday morning, another domino fell in the continuing wave of renovations and facility upgrades across the Duke athletics landscape.

The 11,000 square-foot, four-story tower sits adjacent to Koskinen Stadium and the Morris Williams Track and Field complex—also recently-completed—and will support Duke's men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer and track and field athletes.

"I don't know of a facility quite like this in the country," said Kevin White, vice president and director of athletics, following Saturday's dedication ceremony. "It serves a heck of a lot of our student-athletes—about 25 percent of our program will be represented by this building.... It helps us not only in recruitment but in their experience, which then has an effect on the next generation of recruitment."

Kennedy Tower and the many other ongoing and upcoming athletics-related consturction projects are being financed through donations as part of Duke Forward, the University's $3.25 billion fundraising campaign. During Saturday's dedication ceremony, White indicated that Duke is about 70 percent through the campaign, noting that the athletics department has raised around $250 million, with $130 million of that figure designated for the facility upgrades.

Construction on Kennedy Tower and the Williams track complex, as well as renovations to Koskinen Stadium that included new bleachers, cost around $9 million, Deputy Director of Athletics Mike Cragg said.

Duke's new track facility will host its first meet April 11.

The new track, which will host its first meet April 11, is made of the same material as the track at famous Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon.

"It's going to be tremendous competitively," director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. "With this track not around a football field, it has a much wider turn radius, so the times will be the faster. For the throwers it's fantastic because we have all four throwing events located in the middle of the infield, front and center, instead of off in a distant field someplace.... It's going to be great for recruiting as well."

The biggest chunk of the $130 million raised for facilities upgrades is beginning to take shape, as crews have been hard at work since Nov. 29 on the beginning phases of a two-year renovation of Wallace Wade Stadium.

After ripping out the track that once surrounded the football field, crews dug down eight feet, lowering the playing field to allow for additional seats to be added to bring fans closer to the action.

"We're down on that level, we've started doing the footings of the new stands, how low they go into there, and the scoreboard comes down on Monday," Cragg said. "The rain comes next week, so thankfully we're ahead of schedule.... Everything we expected down there was there—no surprises."

Cragg said the next step in the renovations—demolition of the Finch-Yeager Building, which houses the press box, coordinator booths and Duke Sports Medicine—is scheduled for Feb. 2. At the groundbreaking ceremony following the Blue Devils' win against Wake Forest in the regular season finale, White said the building would come down during winter break.

The replacement structure will be built during the course of the next year and a half, and should be ready by the home opener of the 2016 football season.

The fate of the Wallace Wade scoreboard is one of the more intriguing aspects of the project. Rather than dismantling and discarding it, Duke will reconfigure and repurpose the scoreboard in two chunks. Two-thirds will be placed inside Koskinen Stadium as early as February, with the remaining piece to be set up at the Williams Track and Field complex.

White pointed to the repurposing of the scoreboard and the dual functionality of Kennedy Tower as the athletic department looking to generate the biggest "bang for our buck."

"You could spend a fortune on these things, or you could spend a lot of money but not a fortune and get almost the same result," White said. "We're trying to be pretty careful."

Wallace Wade Stadium's new scoreboard will certainly be a big "bang". At 42 feet high and 75.6 feet wide, the LED video board is twice the size of the old scoreboard and will be placed 90 feet closer to the south end zone. White said the scoreboard will be the largest in the ACC.

With Kennedy Tower and the track now open and Wallace Wade renovations well underway, attention is shifting toward the next phase of the renovation project—an addendum to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The proposed project builds out a new lobby at the front of the 75-year-old venue at the entrance nearest Wallace Wade Stadium. The addition has already received design approval from the University Board of Trustees, with construction approval to be voted on in February. Once the project passes, Cragg said construction will begin in April at the conclusion of basketball season.

After the conclusion of the spring sports in May, construction will also begin on Scott Pavilion, a new facility to be connected to the outdated Murray Building, which currently houses many of Duke's Olympic sport offices. The new pavilion will house new team offices, a ticket office and a new Nike team store.

The next steps in the athletics upgrades should be completed by August, 2016, Cragg said, in time for the start of football season. A pedestrian-friendly plaza will also be constructed to unite the new additions to the athletic campus, spanning the area between Cameron Indoor Stadium and Wallace Wade Stadium.

Although the $130 million raised for facilities puts Duke athletics more than on track for what it has scheduled, White said the department will continue its fundraising efforts, saying there are more projects on the table.

"You're never ahead—there is no finish line. We're always going to be in the fundraising business and we're always going to be pretty aggressive, assertive on that," White said. "We have to be [aggressive] to retain our competitive position and our aspirational position. Competitive comes in lots of form, it's not just on gameday. It's in the classroom, it's in every other facet of the lives of the 640 student-athletes. It takes a lot of resources to maintain that competitive posture."

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