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By Danny Sirdofsky on behalf of Delaware Athletics

Not much has changed at Delaware Stadium over the last 50 years. On fall Saturdays families still drive in from all over the region to watch the Fightin’ Blue Hens on the gridiron, the Victory Bell still rings after each Delaware touchdown and the marching band still proudly takes the field at halftime. But while these traditions are treasured mainstays of the Delaware Athletics experience, one thing that has not stood the test of time is the stadium itself, or the training, wellness, weightlifting and academic facilities that have been inadequate or non-existent for Blue Hen student-athletes across all sports.

Almost 45 years since any major renovations occurred, the University of Delaware will give the state’s most prominent stadium—and the entire UD athletics campus — a much needed facelift through Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware, the new university-wide fundraising and engagement campaign. Athletics facilities are a top priority for the campaign with a $60 million goal to renovate Delaware Stadium and build a new state-of-the-art Athletic Center for student-athletes.

Having gone much longer than any other school in the Colonial Athletic Association since undertaking a major stadium renovation—every other school in the conference has completed a major renovation since 2000—the University, Board of Trustees and President Dennis Assanis have announced a commitment of $25 million to help “build our home.”

“Athletics is an essential part of creating an extraordinary experience for all UD students, and our student-athletes and fans deserve top-notch facilities,” President Assanis said. “Through the Delaware First campaign, we are committed to strengthening the Athletics program to benefit the Blue Hen nation now and for generations to come.”

Additionally, Delaware golf alum Ken Whitney, ’80, and his wife, Liz Whitney, have made a transformational lead gift of $10 million to name the Whitney Athletic Center, pushing the total individual commitments towards this campaign to $23 million and marking the largest individual gift in Delaware Athletics history. Ken, a current Delaware Board of Trustees member, and his wife have previously established the Whitney Family Scholarship Endowment and the Whitney Family Endowed Chair in the Lerner College of Business and Economics in 2011. 

 “We are excited in knowing the multiple ways this new center will enhance the student-athlete experience at the University for years to come. We also strongly believe in the positive impact athletics can have across an entire university community and beyond,” said Ken and Liz Whitney.

With the University investment and $23 million already raised by the athletic department, more than 80 percent of the campaign goal has been reached as of November 2017.  

Building Our Home

The plan to rebuild and reinvest in athletic facilities includes several phases. During the first, fans and student-athletes will see the following changes:

  • Renovating the west side of Delaware Stadium:
    • Chair backs for all seats in the middle three sections (C, D, E).
    • Upgraded restrooms and concessions.
    • Stadium Club space with bar, food and exclusive club seating.
    • Enhanced press box, including a game day production studio and coaches’ booths.
  • Construction of a new athletic center for all UD student-athletes that will extend along the stadium’s western facade to include:
    • Student Success Center
      • Integrated space for academic support, career preparation and leadership development.
      • Tutoring, mentoring and academic advising stations.
      • Computer lab that will considerably increase the number of computers currently available to UD student-athletes.
      • Academic lounge to build community and foster inter-team bonding.
      • Multipurpose rooms for guest lectures and press conferences. 
  • Health & Well-Being Center:
    • 10,000-square-foot strength and conditioning space to accommodate multiple teams simultaneously.
    • Enhanced athletic training space with satellite area for physical therapy partnership.
    • On-site X-ray machines.
    • Grab-and-go healthy food options selected by UD nutritionist.
    • Sports psychology areas to provide mental health resources through private consultations, team workshops and athlete educational sessions.
    • Hydrotherapy tubs for rejuvenation and therapeutic needs.

“After talking with our dedicated community, partners and supporters, including student-athletes, coaches, alums, donors, staff and University leadership, it was clear that our priority this Campaign was to Build our Home,” said Chrissi Rawak, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Services. “The overwhelming response was that this project was long overdue and we are excited to bring it to life through the investment from the University and the generous support of all those who want to see Delaware Athletics be successful today and ultimately nationally relevant.”

A key addition to the athletics campus will be the new 10,000-square-foot strength and conditioning space to meet the needs of every Blue Hen student-athlete. Inside, more than 100 can lift weights simultaneously, eliminating the present need for separate shifts to allow everyone use of the facilities. The new space will also house a much larger training room, which will get rid of long lines that stretch into the hallway during midday practices.

In addition, the center will have an X-ray machine, hydrotherapy tubs, computer stations and more academic resource space. It will also house offices for health and wellness (strength and conditioning, athletic training, sports medicine, nutrition and sports psychology), as well as student success (academic support, leadership development and career preparation), and include common areas so that all UD student athletes can spend more time together across teams. Perhaps most importantly, the new athletic center will bring together the entire athletic community and save student athletes a considerable amount of travel time by centralizing all resources in a single, state-of-the-art facility.

“The Athletics projects will add great value to the University and will have extraordinary benefits for many people, especially our student athletes,” said UD football head coach Danny Rocco. “The space, with training and academics, will create an environment and culture that will maximize the student-athlete experience. The first-class facility and stadium enhancements showcase the commitment to and vision for the future of our programs here at UD.”

To maximize use of these new resources, the athletic department will make the new hydrotherapy tubs available to UD’s Physical Therapy Clinic, the nation’s #1 ranked program, and the stadium’s club level will be available to rent for private events such as weddings and banquets.

Ground-floor kitchens will be used to teach student-athletes healthy cooking techniques (using food grown at the nearby College of Agriculture and Natural Resources) when they are not being used to prepare food for the concession stands on game days.

University Investment in Athletics

The athletics commitment is a key priority of the Delaware First campaign, which has an overall goal of $750 million. Other top priorities include enhancing graduate education, The Biden Institute and programs and initiatives for innovation and entrepreneurship. The Campaign will create an extraordinary student experience and extend the University’s impact on the world with financial support for scholarships, faculty support, research projects, facilities and experiential learning opportunities across UD.

“Our family believes in all of the great new initiatives happening at Delaware under the leadership of its new President, Dr. Assanis,” said Ken and Liz Whitney. “We are proud to be able to support the Blue Hens of today and tomorrow through the building of a new athletic center.”

The University’s investment in athletics does not stop with upgrading of facilities. The University has invested in health and wellbeing initiatives, including funding new sports psychologist and nutritionist positions for the athletic department, as well supporting the addition of much needed Assistant Coaching positions and scholarships across UD varsity teams.

“This will allow our coaching staff to compete for top recruits nationwide and to provide the best possible experience and support for our student athletes throughout their time here at Delaware,” said Rawak.

Renovation Countdown

Construction on the project will begin once 100 percent of the fundraising goal is met and should take approximately 18-24 months. The design phase for the project is currently underway and will take roughly a year to complete.

“We are immensely grateful to all of those who have given and will give to Delaware Athletics,” said Rawak. “None of this would be possible without the outstanding support of our Blue Hen community. This has been a long time coming and we are excited to say that the time is now.”

A core component of the Campaign is to unite Blue Hens around the globe in advancing The University of Delaware. In support of the belief that every gift counts, a Delaware Athletics crowdfunding page is available with the goal to gain participation from 1,882 donors in honor of athletics inaugural year at the University.

Donate at bluehens.com/DelawareFirst.

Following the completion of this phase of the current campaign, UD will continue to invest in the athletics campus in future phases by renovating the UD Field House, as well as the east side and end zones of the football stadium.

If you would like more information on the Delaware First Campaign and Athletics facility projects, please contact athletic development at bluehensclub@udel.edu or 302.831.8499.

ABOUT DELAWARE FIRST

Delaware First will strengthen the Blue Hen nation and raise funds to support student scholarships, endowed professorships, graduate fellowships, research, facilities and experiential learning opportunities across UD.

 

The Campaign will also help establish several potential programs to enhance graduate education, initiatives around innovation and entrepreneurship, partnerships through the Biden Institute and the construction of several new buildings around campus, including the biopharmaceutical building on STAR campus, as well as UD athletic facilities, among other strategic projects.

 

Watch this video on the Delaware First to learn more. To stay updated on the campaign or learn how to get involved, visit www.udel.edu/delawarefirst.