Dec 7, 2023 - Development

Charlotte 49ers approve more funding for football stadium expansion

Jerry Richardson Stadium expanded to 30,680. Rendering courtesy of Jenkins Peer Architects/HOK

Jerry Richardson Stadium expanded to 30,680. Rendering courtesy of Jenkins Peer Architects/HOK

The Charlotte 49ers are pressing forward with football stadium expansion.

Driving the news: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s board of trustees approved an additional $1.25 million for advance planning Thursday. This brings the university’s financial commitment to $2 million for the first phase of stadium expansion, which comes from donor funds.

  • The university also selected Barton Malow Builders as the construction manager for the advance planning stage of the project.

Why it matters: Charlotte’s Jerry Richardson Stadium seats 15,314. It entered the American Athletic Conference this year as the smallest in the Football Bowl Subdivision — or FBS, which includes several stadiums that seat more than 100,000.

  • A larger stadium positions Charlotte to host more events, like bowl games.

Catch up quick: Advance planning is essentially the starting line for expanding the stadium. The board approved $750,000 for advance planning in April. McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture and SLAM were approved as co-designers for the project in September.

  • “The designer is moving forward on an aggressive schedule,” says Rich Steele, the university’s associate vice chancellor for facilities management. 
  • Allocating more money to advance planning allows the 49ers to do some pre-construction work, 49ers director of athletics Mike Hill tells Axios. Getting Barton Malow on board now, for instance, allows them to participate in the design, meaning they’ll make sure what is being designed can actually be built.
  • The university also worked with Legends, a company founded by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, to assess features like premium seating needs and capacity.

What’s happening: Jerry Richardson Stadium will host the relocated Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 18 at 2:30pm. The game will air on ESPN featuring Old Dominion and Western Kentucky.

  • The bowl has been rebranded the Famous Toastery Bowl for this year and is expected to return to the Bahamas in 2024 following stadium renovations. 

What they’re saying: “I would love eventually to see us have a permanent bowl game here,” Hill told the board of trustees Thursday. “I think as the stadium expands, we’ll have more opportunities to host concerts, other football games, high school football … the list goes on and on.”

  • The NCAA is not currently adding new bowl games, Hill tells Axios. But “you never know when a bowl game might relocate,” Hill says.

By the numbers: The initial estimate cost to expand the stadium to 30,000 seats is $81 million, but the estimate is two years old and construction costs continue to rise.

  • Charlotte is roughly $19 million away from that goal, Hill tells Axios. The project, however, could also be done in smaller phases.
  • Charlotte received a $25 million donation from Charlotte real estate tycoon Smoky Bissell. It was contingent on the school being able to match Bissell’s $25 million, as CBJ reported. The state allocated $25 million for the 49ers in its budget. 

What’s next: Advance planning is expected to be complete by the board’s next meeting on Feb. 15. The step after that will be project authorization, which will involve the university’s board of trustees and the state’s board of governors.

The bottom line: Change isn’t just coming for football. This is part of the university’s EverGreen Athletics Facilities Master Vision — a 12-15-year multiphase and multimillion-dollar plan — will also include a new stadium for soccer and lacrosse, new clubhouses for softball and baseball an indoor tennis complex and more. 

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