The University of Delaware is well on its way to raising the money for a $60 million project to renovate its football stadium and athletic complex, officials say.
Long an NCAA gridiron powerhouse among the second tier of Division I schools, UD has won seven national titles, and appeared in three championship games from 2003 to 2010.
Though the last seven seasons have been relatively subpar, under new coach Danny Rocco, the Blue Hens are back in playoff contention this season.
Now the school’s football program and other sports teams are getting what many consider a long-needed boost: modernizing Delaware Stadium and constructing a five-story glass-and-steel athletic center along its western facade.
The project is part of a $750 million fundraising campaign announced this month by the university. Among the top goals of the endeavor, which UD has dubbed Delaware First, is enhancing graduate education, the fledgling Biden Institute, and other programs for innovation and entrepreneurship. The money will provide more financial support for scholarships, faculty support, research projects, and better facilities.
The school has already contributed $25 million to the stadium and athletics project, and athletics officials have raised $23 million. After the additional $12 million has been contributed, the school will begin the construction phase.
Athletic Director Chrissi Rawak said officials hope to break ground after the 2018 football season — about a year from now.
Delaware Stadium, built in 1952, and periodically expanded and upgraded, has languished in recent years. Meanwhile, every other school in the Colonial Athletic Conference has made major stadium upgrades since 2000, UD officials said.
The plan for the stadium itself will include chair backs for all seats in the middle three sections of the west grandstand; upgraded restrooms, concessions, and press box; and a stadium club with a bar, food, and exclusive club seating.
The athletic center will have a health and wellness center with amenities including a 10,000-square-foot weightlifting and conditioning space, plus newer athletic training space, on-site X-ray machines, and sports psychology areas and hydrotherapy.
A student success center will have space dedicated to academic support, career, and leadership assistance; tutoring and mentoring stations; and a computer lab.
Rawak said the stadium repairs and athletic center will help UD, with recruiting and on the playing field, so Delaware can return to national prominence.
“In order to really be competitive and create the very best experiences, facilities are a component to that,’’ Rawak told WHYY Monday.
“Those are the tools and resources we need to be providing to our student athletes to develop and build leaders and champions,” UD President Dennis Assanis said.
The $750 million campaign is designed to take the school to “the next level,” and athletics is an essential part of the campus community, he said.
“Our student-athletes and fans deserve top-notch facilities,” Assanis said. “We are committed to strengthening the athletics program to benefit the Blue Hen nation now and for generations to come.”
Rawak and school officials are grateful for the generosity of former UD golfer Ken Whitney, who with his wife Liz donated $10 million to the project and will have the athletic center named for them. Ken Whitney is a current member of UD’s Board of Trustees.
So what about superstar alumnus Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback whose $22 million salary is among the NFL’s highest?
Rawak chuckled when asked about soliciting big donations from Flacco and other affluent former prominent athletes, including ex-NFL running back Dan Reeder, whose sons Tory and Colby are two stalwarts on this year’s UD team.
“We’re having conversations with a lot of people,’’ Rawak said.