Students turned a page in UNT history this fall when they voted to add, for the first time, a dedicated athletic fee to help fund a new football stadium and entertainment venue. They say their commitment speaks to the faith they have in the university — and that faith goes beyond athletics.
"We didn't vote for just a new stadium, we voted for the future of UNT," says Jeff Kline, president of UNT's Student Government Association. "Having such a facility on our campus will enhance our lives as students and alumni. We've made an investment in this university by voting yes. We now challenge the alumni to support their alma mater as well."
The referendum that passed in October will help provide funds for a new stadium that will replace the 56-year-old Fouts Field, which has outdated electrical and plumbing systems, a lack of meeting space and guest suites, substandard locker rooms and an infrastructure making retrofitting cost-prohibitive. However, Texas regulations state students may pay only up to 50 percent of a stadium's cost, and no state funds may be used. Private donations and corporate sponsorships are imperative to the stadium's future.
"For me, a new stadium means a new beginning," junior Catherine Evans says. "What we did as a student body will leave a legacy. I'll be able to look back and say I gave a gift to my school that will be here for generations to come."
First in design
The new $10 per credit hour fee — which will cap at 15 hours and replace the existing $3 per credit hour fee that students pay to athletics as part of the student service fee — will be implemented only when the stadium opens, which could be as early as fall 2011. Plans for the multi-purpose facility include increased tailgating space, seating for about 30,000, luxury suites, an amenity-filled club level, a Spirit Store, a corporate deck and a Touchdown Terrace. In addition to hosting UNT events, it will serve the entire North Texas region as a venue for outdoor concerts, community events, high school games and band competitions.
The highly visible building will be the first collegiate football stadium designed by award-winning HKS Inc. Architects, the firm that designed the new Dallas Cowboys stadium. UNT is striving to be the first university in America to build a LEED silver certified collegiate football stadium. With the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, the facility will be proof of UNT's commitment to sustainability and a model for other universities.
Located on the site of the former Eagle Point Golf Course, adjacent to the Athletics Center and directly across Interstate 35 from the Murchison Performing Arts Center, the new complex will create a distinctive and memorable gateway to campus.
"Our students understand that a strong athletics program is key to a vibrant alumni community and the continued growth of UNT's image," President Gretchen M. Bataille says. "Their support of a new athletic fee helps us build a new stadium and entertainment venue that will ensure our athletic program matches the quality of our academic and research programs."
Commitment from everyone
After Legislative, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and UNT System Board of Regents approvals, groundbreaking could take place as early as October 2009. While the first step in attaining this state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex was taken by the students, completion of the project depends on contributions from alumni, friends, other donors and corporate sponsors.
"This historic initiative will require commitment and participation from everyone, at the highest level possible," says Rick Villarreal, UNT athletic director. "Our efforts should match those made by our students in sports and in the classrooms every day."
Freshman Jesus Romo says he was happy to make that commitment.
"I know without a doubt that this stadium is important to the future of UNT. I'm proud to be one of the first students who will pay the new athletic fee," he says. "I just hope that North Texas alumni and other supporters will make an investment, too."
For more information about UNT's new stadium and giving and sponsorship opportunities, contact Ann Clinkscales, senior associate athletic director of development, at email@example.com or (940) 369-8268.
Read more about the Mean Green Nation in our fall feature, "Mean Green Mania."