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UNT to go before board on stadiums
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SwampHound Offline
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School to share baseball facility with TCL franchise

07:24 AM CDT on Tuesday, August 24, 2004

By Brett Vito / Staff Writer

The North Texas athletic department will present to the Board of Regents on Thursday the basic parameters of an agreement with local investors to build a baseball stadium on campus.

Jim Leslie, a Dallas area businessman, heads a group that recently founded a Texas Collegiate League baseball team in Denton that is scheduled to begin play next summer. UNT would provide property on campus for a facility. The TCL team would then raise the money to build a 1,000- to 1,500-seat stadium.

The TCL team would use the facility during the summer months. UNT’s club baseball team would have use of the field during the school year.

UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said building a stadium on campus could be the first step in reviving the Mean Green’s varsity baseball team that last played from 1984-88.

"It’s important to point out that this is just an opportunity," Villarreal said of the potential for a baseball stadium at UNT. "There is nothing signed that says this is going to happen, but we want to explore it."

A lease agreement between the owners of the TCL franchise and UNT is one aspect of the parameters of the deal UNT’s regents will consider.

The proposal is one of two presentations to the board that will involve the athletic department. UNT president Dr. Norval Pohl said the athletic department is also putting together a video that could be used as a tool for the initial stages of a fund-raising campaign for a new football stadium.

The athletic department hopes to show the video that would show what a new stadium might look like during the board meeting.

Villarreal would begin showing that video to prospective donors in the next few months as a quiet phase of a fund-raising campaign for a new stadium, Pohl said.

"We’re testing the waters to see how much interest there is in the project," Pohl said.

The university would like to raise 30 to 50 percent of the money before it launches a public campaign. If that much can’t be raised quietly ahead of time, it’s probably not a good idea to start a public campaign, Pohl said.

So far, no campaign is scheduled, and no time frame has been set for the quiet phase, Pohl said.

The fund-raising campaign for a baseball stadium is expected to move quickly in the next few months.

"We extremely excited," said John Hampton, the part owner/general manager of the Denton TCL franchise. "I would see no reason at this point for the agreement to not be finished. UNT has been excited and worked well with us."

Villarreal said UNT has already identified a piece of land adjacent to campus that could be used for the stadium.

The last obstacle to building a stadium once an agreement is reached between UNT and the TCL team would be the owners of the team raising enough money to construct the facility. Villarreal said UNT officials want the stadium to meet the NCAA guidelines for a Division I team and seat between 1,000 and 1,500 fans.

The owners of the TCL franchise have targeted Nov. 1 for a groundbreaking ceremony for the stadium. They hope to have the field finished by June 8, so the team can begin playing at its home field next summer.

The TCL is a league that features players who are in the midst of their careers with college teams. The league currently has franchises in several cities around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including McKinney, Highland Park and Weatherford.

"We are going to work real hard to raise the money to make it happen," Hampton said. "We have no plan other than to have the stadium finished. There is no other option."

Villarreal said UNT would try to assist in the fund-raising campaign by identifying boosters affiliated with the school who are interested in baseball.

Both Pohl and Villarreal said construction of a stadium and the return of varsity baseball to UNT are critical for the development of the athletic program. UNT was among a group of schools considered for an invitation to join Conference USA earlier this year before the league extended an invitation to UTEP.

UNT was left behind in the Sun Belt, a league that includes no Texas teams and few regional rivals for the Mean Green.

"In this last round of realignment, we found we were not as attractive as we might have been because we didn’t offer baseball," Pohl said.

One of the Sun Belt’s strengths as a conference is its baseball league, which has sent multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 16 years. Pohl said UNT would need several years to develop a baseball team and join the Sun Belt, which has supported the school’s early steps to revive its program.

"We have to be prudent, but baseball would give our program visibility," Villarreal said. "It’s a high profile sport in the state and is important to the long-term success of the program."

UNT officials also see replacing Fouts Field as a key challenge facing the athletic department. The stadium was built in the early 1950s and has gone through several renovations and upgrades through the years, including the addition of a new artificial surface in 1997.

UNT officials have changed course from looking at ways to upgrade the field to examining how to replace it in the last few years.

Interest in the project has increased recently due to the success the Mean Green have enjoyed under coach Darrell Dickey. UNT has won the last three Sun Belt Conference titles and enters the 2004 season with an 18-game conference winning streak.

"Both Rick and I would like to see a stadium tomorrow," Pohl said. "But realistically you could spend two to four years before you determine if there is enough support for it."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870.
08-24-2004 04:04 PM
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SwampHound Offline
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also for those that did not know, UNT has a new url for the official athletics website

<a href='http://www.meangreensports.com/' target='_blank'>http://www.meangreensports.com/</a>
08-24-2004 04:06 PM
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Trojans1andAll Offline
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Post: #3
 
That is great news for UNT and the Sun Belt. It is good to be in a conference where all the schools are constantly striving to improve.

GO TROJANS!
08-24-2004 05:09 PM
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TrojanFan2 Offline
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Post: #4
 
During the 1996 Olympics they renovated the stadium that the 1-A team in Columbus, GA played in. During that season they used the stadium at Columbus State University. One of the big complaints was that no beer could be sold and attendence dropped to almost zero. If it is the same rule at UNT the professional team may not be too happy about it. 04-cheers
08-25-2004 08:21 AM
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DC_Clone
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Post: #5
 
Pro teams DO NOT use UNT facilities. The baseball team/league mentioned is composed of college players.
08-25-2004 09:44 AM
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