Usually the new stadium process works like this: a school announces it's pursuing a new stadium or major renovations, releases some renderings to get the public excited, forwards the plan to the board of regents for approval, then commences with the project.
This isn't like any of those.
Stephen Ballard, construction magnate and Old Dominion booster, has submitted an unsolicited bid to remake the Monarchs' Foreman Field. Ballard's plan, which he says will cost at most $124 million, will essentially level the existing structure (leaving only the south end zone untouched) while expanding capacity from 20,118 to 25,000 with the possibility of leveling up to 35,000, add much needed VIP areas and be complete in time for the 2018 season.
“This stadium would look like a big-time facility,” Ballard told the Virginian-Pilot. “Right now, what we have doesn’t look that impressive.”
Built like a scaled-down version of Tampa Bay's Old Sombrero, the 80-year-old stadium's clam shell design, according to the Virginian-Pilot, makes a simple renovation essentially a non-starter. ODU needs a brand new or like-new stadium. And Ballard has taken it upon himself to deliver one.
Ballard oversaw Florida's $50 million renovation to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2001 and is currently handling construction of multiple new schools in Norfolk. His plan has a fan in Norfolk mayor Paul Fraim.
“I think this will be well-received” Fraim told the paper. “I don’t know about the cost of the stadium. That’s a decision for Old Dominion officials to make. But as a proposal, I think it makes a great deal of sense.”
ODU officials have yet to comment on the proposal.
“Time is money,” Ballard said. “We’ve done $700 million worth of projects with the commonwealth. We know how the process works and how best to get projects done more quickly and at a lower price.”
”I can expedite the process and give them a great product at a great price.”
Ballard said his project would not interrupt the Monarchs' home schedule, though he would ask ODU to push back its Sept. 8, 2018 home opener with VMI, allowing the Monarchs' Sept. 22, 2018 home date with Virginia Tech to serve as the new Foreman Field's grand opening.
If approved, Old Dominion would be the fourth Conference USA school to build a new or like-new football stadium since 2011.