Arnold Garron ’84 still laughs when he remembers the faux pas he made as a Wildcat football recruit some 35 years ago: “I went to check out Cowell Stadium and said something like, ‘hey, nice practice field,’” the UNH Hall of Famer and interim dean of Paul College recalls. “When I realized I’d just insulted the game field, I figured that was it for my chances at UNH.”
Garron is probably not the first—and surely not the last—student-athlete to be taken aback by the mismatch between the excellence of UNH’s athletic programs and some of the facilities that support them. But that won’t be a problem much longer. In June, the USNH Board of Trustees approved plans for an ambitious renovation of the Field House athletic complex that will replace Cowell Stadium and offer increased and improved seating for visitors, including a dedicated student seating area. Identified as a priority in the campus master plan, the new facility will enhance recruitment, student satisfaction and overall visibility in an increasingly competitive admissions marketplace.
“I’m very pleased that the project is moving forward with the support of so many people throughout the state,” says president Mark Huddleston.
The renovated complex will be a resource for more than UNH. With a new home grandstand on the College Woods side of the field, state-of-the-art broadcast capability, concessions and restrooms—amenities the current facilities are lacking—the expanded facility will allow the university to host a broader range of competitions and events such as Special Olympics, concerts and high school championships. Outdoor lighting (see box) will also make it possible to expand the hours for which the facility is useable.
Approval for the $25 million project came after the university successfully raised $5 million in private donations. As athletic director Marty Scarano sees it, those private donations are an indication of how eager friends, fans and alumni are to see additional Wildcat teams compete in a venue worthy of their athletic accomplishments—as the ice hockey teams are able to in the Whittemore Center.
“We are coming off a banner year for UNH sports teams, with five programs going to NCAA post-season play and the football team making its historic run all the way to the division semifinals,” Scarano says. “The new complex will enhance the experience for our fans and aid recruiting efforts as the home of UNH’s football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s track and field teams. We’re grateful for the support of the many donors who made it possible for us to reach our goal.”
Renovations are being timed to minimize disruption to the university’s teams while they’re in session. This summer, the existing Field House bleachers—which will ultimately become visiting-team seating—were upgraded and the access road for the new home-side complex went in. The facility is expected to be completed and open for business in time for the fall 2016
SATURDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Phase One of the stadium project was simple but essential: installing facility lights around the football field to make it possible to hold evening practices, games and events. Five 120-foot-tall light poles arrived in late July and were installed over the course of August. The football team played its first game under the lights on September 27, rewarding fans with a 52-19 New Hampshire Day drubbing of Dartmouth College.
Originally published in UNH Magazine—Fall 2014 Issue