Football: UNT shows off stadium

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DRC/David Minton
North Texas football players make their way onto the field at the school’s new stadium Friday to take a team photo in their new uniforms. In the foreground is “Spiriki,” a new eagle statue donated by the Geezles, a social fraternity full of former UNT athletes that disbanded in 1970.

North Texas officials have said for years that they expect the school's new stadium to have a huge impact on the future of the program.

New head coach Dan McCarney was one of several who laid out in detail Friday during UNT's annual media day how the signs of that impact are becoming more apparent.

"Once we get young men and their families on campus, it is a whole different world now," McCarney said. "What I ask all of them is if it is less than what you expected, what you expected or more than you expected. Everyone has said it is more than they expected."

UNT spent $79 million on the venue that will replace Fouts Field, a rapidly deteriorating venue the Mean Green has played in since 1952.

The school has been showing off its new digs for weeks and gave several members of the Dallas-Fort Worth media a chance to get a closer look at the facility for the first time.

The school took possession of the stadium after the vast majority of construction was finished just a few weeks ago.

UNT will play its first home game at the venue on Sept. 10 against Houston.

Some of the fine details of the stadium were in place in time for media day, including a bronze eagle statue near the south end zone donated by the Geezles, a former UNT fraternity.

"It's a proud day for the university," athletic director Rick Villarreal said. "To receive the comments we have about how it compares to not only other college facilities, but other facilities in the metroplex from the media, it is very satisfying. We know now that we have done this the right way and can provide people the same amenities as any other venue in the metroplex."

UNT is hoping the new venue will help change the perception of a program that has not won more than three games in a season since 2004.

McCarney has seen that change begin to take place.

"There is no question the stadium has already impacted our program," McCarney said. "The perception is North Texas' athletic department is run with great leadership, that the Olympic sports, women's sports and basketball are well-run and very successful. But the perception on the outside is that football stinks at North Texas, that there is no commitment, no winning, no success and it hasn't been run the right way. If you want to go small-time, you go to North Texas. If you want to go big-time, you go somewhere else. That's what we stepped into. Does that mean it is going to remain that way? Not a chance."

UNT's players could sense a change in the program heading into their first workout of fall practice on Friday night.

"This stadium will bring so much energy," senior offensive lineman Matt Tomlinson said. "Everyone is so excited. We have been working hard and are ready to start playing in it."

The impact of the stadium will reach well beyond UNT once the Mean Green begins playing there. The school will make the facility available for weddings and other events, which will increase the impact of UNT's Mean Green Village, which includes the school's athletic center, the football stadium and several other athletic venues.

"For the D-FW region you are looking at about $29 million in economic impact recurring yearly that will support about 255 jobs, looking at the whole complex, not just the football stadium," said Michael Seman, a research associate with UNT's Center for Economic Development. "You have everything from weddings to corporate events that go beyond the football season."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is bvito@dentonrc.com.


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