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Ammons wants FAMU athletic facilities upgraded
After running non-stop through a long list of new constructions or renovations projects that will take place on the campus of Florida A&M, university president James Ammons finally took a breath.
Then, he went on with another list that’s just as important.
The swimming pool, baseball field, tennis courts and Bragg Stadium. All of them need upgrading, and Ammons doesn’t want it to be patchwork. The multimillion-dollar Lawson Center, where FAMU’s basketball and volleyball teams play is his benchmark.
“All of those facilities need attention,” Ammons said during an interview with the Democrat. “As we look at where we’re going in athletics, that next mountain to climb is the facility mountain. We’ve got to bring all of the other facilities up to the Lawson Center.”
Improving the facilities is a must-do project because they could translate into championships in the long run, Ammons said.
“We want to make sure that every program leader has a chance to win,” he said.
Reminded that despite having a new gymnasium men’s basketball, in particular, hasn’t been drawing large crowds, Ammons said that could be changed with more competitive teams.
“Winning cures a lot of ill; brings a lot of excitement so you’ve got to win,” he said. “You’ve got to win.”
So Ammons’ plan seemingly is to give each sport a better chance to do just that. An assessment team led by interim athletic director Mike Smith and CFO Teresa Hardee has been put in place to determine feasibility and timeline to begin. But in the meantime there is an earnest push to make the field at Bragg Stadium a priority.
FAMU officially launched a campaign Thursday to raise $750,000 to add artificial turf to the stadium in time for the Rattlers’ first home game Oct. 2.
FAMU football coach Joe Taylor and FAMU vice president Carla Willis are leading the fundraising, which they said could be a success if 1,453 people each donate $516.
“We have determined that artificial turf is the best option for improving field safety for our players, and for cost effectiveness over the long run,” said an appeal notice endorsed by Taylor and Willis. “The acquisition of turf will enable us to have a virtually maintenance free playing surface, which will save us thousands of maintenance dollars in future years.”
Ammons said his vision for the stadium is much bigger than just adding turf. He would like to make Bragg a first-class stadium with luxury boxes and more fan-friendly.
“People go to sporting events for different reasons,” he said. “There are some diehard fans who would come if the stadium stayed that way forever. There are some who come see the (Marching) 100 and they’re going to be in their seats for halftime and that’s pretty much it. Then, you have the family.
“Young people ought to have an experience when they come as well so I want this to be something that people can’t wait for the weekend; I’ve got to go to that stadium.”
But while Bragg Stadium is the immediate focus, it’s only the first step, Ammons said while pointing out that football is the big money-maker.
What’s being done now is intended to give the program “a chance to be as successful as it can be,” he said.
Ammons added: “I mean, we’ve got to win the conference. But there is a bigger picture in terms of the entire athletic enterprise that we have to look at.”
By St. Clair Murraine
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER