RALEIGH – Quietly, North Carolina State University is raising as much as $6 million from private donors for improvements to athletic facilities including the school’s football stadium.
“We will be purchasing a new scoreboard for Carter Finley that will be a significant improvement,” writes N.C. State’s athletics director, Debbie Yow, in an e-mail about her plans for the coming year. “Our focus for the Spring will be the pursuit of private funding for a number of modest yet valuable facility improvements …”
Senior Associate Athletics Director Chris Kingston, who is working on the scoreboard project, said through a university spokesman that the project is one of many planned facility enhancements. And the money for those most of improvements will have to come from private donors.
The football stadium’s current scoreboard has been in use since 2001. It was part of a massive, multi-year makeover for the stadium that included adding seats, building a new press box and luxury suites and constructing a football operations center.
Mark Steinkamp, a senior marketing director at Brookings, S.D.-based scoreboard provider Daktronics, says in an e-mail that large college football scoreboards can cost as much as several million dollars. Schools typically will replace them every seven to 10 years as new control and display technologies come along, he adds.
Bobby Purcell, executive director of the Wolfpack Club booster organization, says that NCSU’s plans call for replacing the video screen part of the scoreboard, not the entire scoreboard. “There’s a lot better technology now,” he says in explaining the need for the upgrade.
Replacing only the screen panel would save NCSU money. Experts in the semiconductor industry versed with light emitting diode technology estimate such a replacement would cost between $500,000 and $1 million. That same upgrade would have cost more than $2 million just a couple years ago, but LED prices have fallen dramatically since then.
One booster the university might consider targeting for help with such a project is Neal Hunter, who co-founded the Durham-based LED company Cree Inc. Hunter says that he has heard about the university trying to upgrade its football scoreboard before next season, but no one from the school has approached him officially to talk about it. “I would love to see Cree’s LED in that scoreboard,” he says.
So what about the fundraising for other facility improvements that Yow alludes to in her e-mail? Purcell says that he is working on two projects.
The first, which is almost complete, is raising a half million dollars to upgrade the Casey Natatorium, where the school’s swimming teams compete. The Wolfpack Club also is trying to raise another $2.5 million, which is needed to complete the clubhouse at the school’s golf course. NCSU booster Lonnie Poole already has donated half of the amount needed for that $5 million project. Last week, Poole announced a gift of $40 million to the business school of the university, the single-largest gift by an individual in NCSU’s history.
But for the athletics department, the current list of projects may just be the beginning as Yow plans for the long term. Local real estate veteran Steve Stroud, a well-known NCSU booster, says, “Our soccer facilities are far behind the other major soccer programs in the ACC.” He adds that the tennis facilities and the baseball stadium are among the venues that also need improvements.