When the UNH football team’s first practice of fall camp ended on a sunny and warm August afternoon, the Wildcats headed back to their locker room with much anticipation.
“Air conditioning,” said one player to another. “How great is that?”
Very great, the Wildcats all agreed.
The team had reported back to campus to the newly completed renovation of the James “Red” Hayes ’32 Football Locker Room, an important achievement for UNH Athletics as it strives to ensure its programs are supported by great infrastructure. Phase I of the project, finished in 2017, featured an expanded team lounge, new lighting and technological and electrical upgrades. Phase II brought improved climate control and individual wooden lockers complete with charging stations and secure storage areas.
This total renovation of the space — the first in more than 30 years — would not have been possible without the generous support of Bob ’62 and Suzie Lane and the family of James “Red” Hayes, led by Tom and Margie Hayes Brown and Gail Hayes Kelly ’66 and her late husband, Ed Kelly, who together spurred the launch of Phase II.
"Many times, Jim would drive to a road game by himself and sit in the stands in the pouring rain and be the only fan there.”
Red Hayes, a UNH Hall of Fame football player, was a prominent New Hampshire businessman and community leader who long supported the football program and the university. His donations to the locker room’s original construction led to the facility being named in his honor.
“Many times, Jim would drive to a road game by himself and sit in the stands in the pouring rain and be the only fan there,” recalls Tom Brown, Hayes' son-in-law. “He was recognized as the team’s No. 1 fan in the early 1980s. We wanted to raise some funds and keep his name there as a remembrance and a memorial of what it meant to him.”
Through the reimagined locker room, Hayes’ legacy plays a role in recruiting Wildcat football’s next generation of student-athletes and lifelong supporters.
“Their giving so that our student-athletes can benefit shows what it means to truly be part of the Wildcat football family,” says head coach Sean McDonnell ’78, who is currently on a medical leave of absence. “It’s something for our players to take great pride in, that people care about our program enough to make the locker room come out as well as it did.”
Senior safety Pop Lacey ’20 speaks for the team when he says, “Being able to have a place that’s comfortable, ... a place where we want to be and we feel like it’s home, is very important to us and we want to thank all the donors for that.”