Friday, April 03, 2009
UNC Charlotte 49ers reveal football Plan B
By Ron Green Jr.
The Charlotte Observer
Turning commitments into payments for Charlotte 49ers football seat licenses is off to a sluggish start while school officials are reconsidering the scope of the football initiative.
The difficult economy led chancellor Philip Dubois to present a scaled-back ‘Plan B' for the start-up program to board of trustees during a February meeting.
The new plan would require approximately $20 million rather than the $45 million called for in the original plan, but would still allow the program to begin play in 2013.
The new plan would include a sports complex using a pre-engineered structure. The plan would also add approximately 11,000 bleacher seats to the 4,000 seats around the Belk track complex to create a football stadium. The original plan includes an on-campus expandable football stadium.
“(The new plan) gets you started,” Dubois said Thursday.
No vote was taken on Dubois's Plan B proposal. A vote is expected at a later date.
“When I made the original recommendation, we weren't looking at the conditions we're looking at today. Obviously, the ground has shifted. We needed a Plan B,” Dubois said.
Should trustees choose to stick with the original $45 million plan – created before economic conditions deteriorated – the start date for the program would likely be pushed back.
Dubois said the critical element is the sports complex, which would house coaches' offices, locker rooms and academic support areas.
“We don't need to build a 50-year structure,” Dubois said. “It will be brick-clad and it will look like all the other buildings on campus. It will serve us nicely.”
The larger question is whether the school can raise the money needed to fund the program.
“That's a daunting challenge,” Dubois said.
With a deadline today for would-be ticket buyers to secure their future seats, money had been received Thursday for 1,304 seats, according to a school spokesman, far below the pledged total of more than 5,400 seats.
Today's deadline doesn't mean those who pledged to buy 49ers Seat Licenses have lost the opportunity. It just takes them off the initial list guaranteeing future seats.
“Am I shocked by the numbers that have come in? I'm not,” Charlotte athletic director Judy Rose said.
“I am a little disappointed.”
Both Rose and Gene Johnson, chairman of the school's football fund-raising committee, said the current economic climate accounts for the slow response.
Dubois was not encouraged by the response.
“That (number) does concern me,” he said.
Johnson said he doesn't believe the low ticket numbers signal a lack of interest in the future program.
“I don't see it that way,” Johnson said. “I've not sent in my seat money. I intend to buy a number of FSLs but I don't consider this to really be a deadline.
“I hope people don't look at this as some sort of test of support for our program … I don't have any question we're going to sell every one of the FSLs.”
In formulating a plan for creating the football program, FSLs are projected to provide between $5 and $10-million in start-up money. The general fund-raising campaign, which has not begun, has a $45-million target.
“There's no panic,” Rose said. “We'd like to have more (ticket money), but it's reflective of the times.”
Rose said people on the FSL list recently received a postcard reminding them of today's deadline. The postcard included a Charlotte 49ers jersey with the person's name on it. Rose called it “a gentle, prodding reminder.”
“It's important that we have a fluid timeline,” Johnson said. “We want to set things up for success. There's no sense doing this any other way but right.”