DURHAM, N.C. - When Duke completed its horseshoe-shaped football stadium in 1929, it was the finest football facility in the South. It remained the largest and most impressive stadium in the state of North Carolina for almost four decades.
But that facility – now known as Wallace Wade Stadium – is still in use more than 80 years later and in the second decade of the 21st Century, it’s no longer a showplace for the university. Wade is not alone – Cameron Indoor Stadium, while perhaps the most storied college basketball facility in the country, needs to become more fan-friendly. Olympic sports facilities also need upgrades. The athletic department needs more revenue for salaries and scholarships in order to continue competing at the highest level.
Duke is about to address that situation, embarking on the largest fund-raising campaign in its history to bring the university to the cutting edge in both facilities and financial support. Duke Athletics has a goal to raise $250 million over the next five years, as part of the university-wide $3.25 billion campaign Duke Forward.
If successful, the Duke Forward campaign will remake Duke Athletics.
“I’m fascinated by the fact that Wallace Wade was the first edifice built on West campus,” Duke Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White said. “Duke led with college athletics in creating this now world class institution. Here we are all these years later and we’re now in the process of re-investing and perhaps recapturing where we once were.”
The plan is for Duke to raise $250 million that will be divided three ways: $100 million will go to facility upgrades; $50 million will go to endowments to strengthen the financial base; and $100 million to annual operating requirements.
“The time is now – now with strobe lights!” White said. “Duke has an iconic [men’s basketball] coach and a revived football program to feel really good about. Women’s basketball has never been better, and there are 23 other sports capable of competing at the highest level.
“On top of that, the college athletics landscape is changing and churning, and the paradigm is shifting economically and competitively. Our time is now. We need to re-engage the mentality we had in the 20s and the early 30s with the hiring of Wallace Wade.” REBUILDING THE INFRASTRUCTURE
Roy Bostock ’62 and a group of loyal volunteers and donors have been spearheading the effort to raise $100 million for facilities. This portion of the campaign will have the most visible and immediate impact on the public. Students and fans will see Wade transformed, Cameron improved (without losing its unique atmosphere), a new track and field stadium and a new plaza that will be fronted by a pavilion containing modernized ticket offices, an expanded team store, offices for athletic department personnel, and improved training and strength and conditioning facilities for the Olympic sport programs.
“The general public, fans, alumni, faculty, staff and students will soon see the increased level of sincerity and commitment relative to not just football, but also college basketball and the Olympic sports,” White said. “The facilities upgrade plan will touch every student-athlete in every sport in a pretty significant way.”
The plan encompasses a number of major projects:
-- TRACK AND FIELD: The first stage will be building a new track stadium, alongside Koskinen Stadium, which currently hosts the school’s soccer and lacrosse teams. The stadium will include a new state-of-the-art track, brick grandstands and an infield with sport-specific throwing lines. In addition, a new press box, the Chris and Ana Kennedy Tower, will be constructed between Koskinen and the track stadium to serve both facilities.
-- FOOTBALL: Moving the track opens the door for the first stage of Wallace Wade’s transformation. The track that circles the field will be removed and the field will be lowered. The stands will be extended closer to the field.
At the same time, the press box will be demolished (with Duke Sports Medicine, which shares the facility, moving to a new location) and replaced with a new tower that will include premium club seating, loges and suites.
Also on tap is a new pedestrian plaza connecting Wade, Cameron and the Yoh Center. It will serve as a grand entrance to both the football and basketball stadiums. As part of the project, Duke will construct – adjacent to the Murray Building – a three-level pavilion that will feature new ticket offices and a team store for the public, offices for the athletic department, new training rooms, and a weight room for Olympic sport student-athletes.
The final phase of the Wade project will be closing in the open end of the horseshoe to turn the stadium into a bowl. The new seating capacity is projected to be 43,915.
-- BASKETBALL: Nothing will be done to the interior playing and seating area at Cameron. The plan includes a new – much larger – lobby at the north end of the stadium (the one closest to Wade Stadium) and new public restrooms on the concourses. There will be new locker rooms and player/coach facilities. In addition, there will be a new special access club room, a new Legacy Room and special “bunker” suites that can be utilized for both football and basketball games.
“We are truly maximizing the money we raise,” said Tom Coffman, Duke’s senior associate athletic director of athletics and planning. “There are a number of schools putting $100 million or $200 million into their football stadium alone. We’re going to build a new track stadium, construct a new Olympic center, and renovate Cameron Indoor Stadium and Wallace Wade Stadium. We are transforming the athletics campus.
“Our No. 1 priority right now is to secure $100 million in new commitments to move forward with the facility upgrades,” Coffman said.
The timetable for the various projects is dependent on the success of the fund-raising campaign. Blue Devil officials are hopeful they’ll raise sufficient support to be able to seek Board of Trustee approval to break ground with the first phase of construction as early as this coming spring. The first phase will focus on building the new track (which has to be done before the track can be removed from Wade) and refurbishing the athletic fields used for practice and intramurals.
If that goes well, the first work on Wallace Wade Stadium – lowering the field, building the new press tower and constructing the new plaza and pavilion – could begin as early as December of 2013 – probably as soon as the football team plays its last home game that season.
“It’s critically important to focus on the facility enhancements, which are crucial for the next iteration of Duke Athletics,” White said. “There has been a lot of talk about Wallace Wade Stadium, but I am just as excited about Cameron Indoor Stadium refurbishments, the new facility for Olympic sports, the repositioning of the track and some new practice fields – I’m excited about all of it because it’s going to touch some 610+ student-athletes.”
The work on Wallace Wade Stadium ought to emphasize the university’s commitment to football. Actually, the program has received considerable support in the last few years – such as the Brooks Family Practice Field and Football Building and the Pascal Field House.
“Thanks to the generous support of people like Steve and Eileen Brooks, Bob Pascal, K.D. and Sara Lynn Kennedy, and Spike and Mary Yoh, Duke’s football practice facilities are now among the best in the country,” White said. “These upgrades and other things that have been done thus far for football may be somewhat under the radar … they’re behind the stage. But now it’s time to take the next step – which is to refurbish the more public side of the ledger.”
Timing is everything – for instance, White explained that closing the open end zone at Wallace Wade Stadium would likely be the last phase – and will come when the football team’s success starts drawing larger crowds, and extra seating is needed.
“We’re not going to rush to do that,” he said. “That’s probably the last thing we do. We need to get really competitive and constantly fill Wallace Wade Stadium. Then the last piece of that puzzle will be filling in the end zone.”
It might be the last piece, but it’s an important piece in the current athletic environment where football is – by far – the greatest source of revenue.
“With the economics of college athletes, we are really committed to building our football business to the point where we can expect to have 44,000 on any given Saturday,” White said. “The paradigm has changed. It’s a pretty accepted fact that 80 percent of the [value of] new conference media packages comes from football.”
White pointed out that while Duke has lagged in generating football revenue, the potential is there for explosive growth.
“The bottom line is that as Duke looks to the future, the upside for us financially, is to continue to build the football program,” he said. “Basketball – we’ve got to do everything we can to keep that program preeminent! We’ve out-kicked our coverage by a significant amount in men’s basketball, but we’re seriously underperforming financially on the football side.”
ENDOWING THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
Increasing Duke’s athletic endowment base may not be as glamorous as refurbishing Wallace Wade Stadium, but it is at least as important to the program in the long term.
“What happens in these campaigns is that your immediate needs are always so great that your endowment and future needs get pushed back,” Coffman said. “It happens almost every time. Having said that, we will do all that we can to balance our current needs with our responsibility to prepare for the future.”
Endowments are gifts that permanently fund scholarships, salaries and other athletic expenses. The money is invested and a portion of the return is used each year to support the donor’s intended purpose. The larger a university’s and athletics department’s endowment base, the better prepared it is to provide for the needs of future student-athletes.
“Duke currently ranks fourth in overall athletic endowment,” Coffman said. “Stanford has an athletics endowment of over $600 million and has fully endowed all its scholarships. Notre Dame has just over $270 million, the University of North Carolina has $212 million and Duke is at $140 million.
“That $140 million provides funds for [about 30 percent] of annual scholarship costs.”
One scholarship at Duke currently costs just under $60,000 a year. That’s the highest in the ACC and one of the highest in the country for a school competing at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level. By contrast, a scholarship at neighboring UNC is reportedly valued at approximately $43,000 a year. N.C. State estimates its annual scholarship cost at just under $34,000 a year.
The difference in scholarship cost is a hurdle that Duke needs to overcome.
“That’s not a level playing field in that respect,” Coffman noted. “So we’d like to add at least $50 million in this campaign to get us closer to 35 percent of the necessary annual funding. And if we can add more than that, all the better.”
The last $100 million of the Athletics campaign goal is to cover annual operating expenses – everything from paying for un-endowed scholarships to coaching salaries, performance bonuses and equipment maintenance and replacement.
“For example, we have an underwater treadmill for students who need to rehab and can’t take impact,” Coffman said. “If that goes out as it recently did, that’s a $40,000+ cost to replace it. We must raise money annually to take care of those things that we can’t anticipate in our annual budgets. We also have contractual agreements with coaches – wherein we incentivize them based on the performance of student-athletes both academically and athletically. We hope that we need to buy championship rings and other recognition awards. We meet these needs in large part because we receive significant private support from our alumni, parents, and friends.”
RAISING THE MONEY
When Kevin White was hired as Duke’s vice president and athletic director in 2008, he talked about his hopes for improving the school’s facilities, especially Wallace Wade Stadium. But he told reporters that a major fund-raising campaign would have to wait until the slumping U.S. economy improved.
“There are pretty good indicators that the economy has changed in certain positive directions,” White said. “The best indicator I could give is that Duke Athletics just had the best year in our history wherein we raised some $50 million in gifts and pledges for athletics. Our previous high-water mark had been about $36 million. That’s a pretty good indicator that things are moving in a positive direction.”
“We recognize the competition for philanthropic support is as keen as ever,” Coffman said. “We have worked hard to develop our case for support. Many of the people we are approaching work in the field of finance, so we started thinking that we state our case in the language that they are used to seeing every day. With the help of some of our alumni like Jeff Fox (’84), we developed what, for lack of a better term, could be called a prospectus … or an offering. If we come to you about this business we’re going to start or re-start, we want to put a plan in front of you that hopefully makes sense and provides some compelling reasons for you to invest.
“The unique thing about this effort is that we are not selling widgets or promising a financial return,” Coffman continues. “When we talk to people about investing, we’re suggesting that they invest in Duke Athletics and, more specifically, in our extraordinarily talented student-athletes and coaches. We believe that this unique and creative approach will resonate with our donors.”
Duke is offering naming opportunities in an attempt to attract those who are in a position to make large gifts. Generous supporters have already left their names scattered across Duke campus – in athletics alone, such names as Yoh, Brooks, Pascal, Schwartz, Koskinen, Wilson, Williams, Ambler, Taishoff and Sheffield adorn facilities.
Donors can also endow specific scholarships or even the various coaching positions, much like professorships and chairs.
The only thing that is not on the table will be renaming the major facilities that currently honor former Duke coaches and donors. The football stadium will continue to honor Wallace Wade. The basketball arena will continue to honor Eddie Cameron. The baseball field will continue to honor Jack Coombs. Duke will continue to honor Coach Bill Murray with the Murray Building.
“Both the authenticity and the culture of Duke Athletics will be protected,” White said. “That is very important to the entire Duke family.”
White suggested that history demonstrates how Duke used athletics in the ‘20s and ‘30s to help elevate a regional university to world-class status. He believes that process is still very much a part of the future equation.
“Athletics has, and can continue to be, an incredible institutional advancement vehicle for Duke University,” White said. “Among the many qualities that make Duke unique, there is an undeniable spirit here, which has been historically impacted by the athletics program. Of course, when Duke won the North Carolina game with Austin’s amazing shot – 2,500 to 3,000 students took to the campus at midnight to celebrate. Members of Duke’s staff were getting e-mails and pictures from around the globe. Kids were dressed up in Duke jerseys. You can’t underestimate, nor put a price tag, on the value the Duke spirit that exists among our alumni, parents and just friends, both domestically and around the world. People rally around it. It’s a very powerful thing.”
White is hoping that spirit translates into the $250 million that Duke Athletics needs to prosper in the modern world. And they’re off to a good start. In the planning phase of the campaign, donors committed about $100 million toward the $250 million goal. Now, Duke will look to a broader base of supporters to help reach or surpass the goal.
“We just need to get back to that aggressive mentality,” he said. “We can’t wait for it to simply happen for Duke. We all need to be more assertive and go out and make it happen. These aren’t things that we’re saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if they occurred?’ These are critical if Duke is going to compete at the level that everyone associated with this great university deserves and has come to expect.”