SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes more than $43 million to replace the stands at URI’s football stadium and install a new track – but Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn says it’s not enough.
Bjorn and other URI leaders are calling for more funding from the state to renovate other athletic facilities on campus, saying some of them are falling apart and can’t be used to their full extent.
It’s not about having fancy facilities, according to Bjorn; it’s about having functional facilities. The stands at Meade Stadium can normally seat 4,300 people, but last year were only able to hold about 3,000, he said.
URI is requesting $42 million to tear down and replace the stands, along with the restrooms, concessions and press box. In its current state, Bjorn said the stadium isn’t just outdated, but also a safety issue.
“In today’s day and age of running a game, it’s not suitable. It just doesn’t work,” he said. “What they are not is ADA-compliant. There’s no elevator to the press box.”
According to Bjorn, these aging facilities are affecting far more than URI student-athletes.
“This is the people of Rhode Island’s facility. We want to host every high school championship here,” he said.
URI leaders say that since 2004, the annual appropriation provided to URI has declined 37% when adjusted for inflation. Gov. Dan McKee’s office acknowledged this in a statement to 12 News, but noted how money is included in his budget proposal to fix up Meade Stadium and Slade Track and Field.
McKee recommended $43.3 million for those projects, which he said represents about 80% of the cost. URI would be asked to contribute an additional $10.8 million.
Bjorn said the funding is welcome, noting how URI hasn’t hosted a track meet in more than 30 years, but said it still wouldn’t help improve the dugouts, concession stands and restrooms at other fields.
“There’s probably a place to put concession stands, storage, restrooms that can be used by soccer, track and softball,” he said.
The press boxes are also a problem, which Bjorn thinks is holding the university back.
“We don’t have a press box, we have a press slab,” Bjorn said. “We believe it’s kept us from hosting an NCAA Championship.”
A proposal put together by URI says in addition to $42 million for the football stadium, the university needs roughly $12 million for the track and field, $10 million for the baseball field, $7 million for the softball field, $6 million for the pool, and $4 million for the soccer field.