Stadium funds in the works

Queen’s in talks with unnamed donor to kickstart development of new facility

It will take roughly $25 million to kickstart the development of a replacement facility for the 43-year-old Richardson Stadium.
It will take roughly $25 million to kickstart the development of a replacement facility for the 43-year-old Richardson Stadium.

Queen’s could soon take a major step towards replacing Richardson Stadium.

The University is currently negotiating a major financial contribution to the development of a new football facility, according to Paul Hand, the co-chair of Queen’s Fields & Stadium Campaign Cabinet.

Constructing a permanent stadium has been a top priority for Athletics and Recreation for years, but no concrete steps have been achieved to date.

Last year, significant portions of the current Richardson bleachers were deemed unsafe and replaced with temporary metal stands.

Hand declined to identify the potential lead donor that Queen’s is working with, but said he’s hopeful the deal will be finalized this spring.

“There’s a lot of details, a lot of things that have to be negotiated,” Hand said. “Frankly, until someone signs, I’ve learned that you never say anything.”

According to Hand, ArtSci ’69, the total cost of Queen’s Fields & Stadium Campaign could eventually exceed $50 million, including $8-9 million already raised for Tindall, Nixon and the West Campus turf fields.

Roughly $25 million will be earmarked for a new stadium. Tom Hewitt, chief development officer at the Office of Advancement, confirmed the University is working with a potential lead donor and told the Journal via email that over $1 million in donations has been amassed so far.

While Queen’s ongoing Initiative Campaign debuted in 2006, Hand said a group of former football players have informally sought to raise stadium funds over the last 15 years.

“We went through some moments where we had a lot of inertia sitting there,” he said. “[Richardson Stadium] was operable and serviceable, and the bottom line is they had to raise the money.

“A lot of things coalesced as we’ve gone through here the last few years,” he added. “The need is apparent with things falling down.”

Hand played football for Queen’s from 1970-73; his career spanned the transition from the original Richardson Stadium, once located at the site of Mackintosh-Corry Hall, to the current football complex on West Campus.

Opened as a temporary facility in 1971, safety concerns have finally sprung up in the last year.

After Richardson’s upper seating tiers were deemed unfit for use in May 2013, Queen’s removed those bleachers and installed a series of temporary stands, effectively reducing seating capacity by over a thousand.

The Gaels football team played out the 2013 season in the hastily renovated stadium, but Hand said raising funds for a new facility is an immediate priority.

“Given the condition of the facility, I think the Principal would like to raise all the money by the fall,” Hand said.

“Is that a doable target? Optimistically, yes, depending on the size of the gift and what the gap is and how quickly people fund it. I do think that it will gain a lot of momentum.”

Athletics Director Leslie Dal Cin told the Journal in July that Queen’s ability to move forward with a new stadium was dependent on the interest of potential donors.

Now, she’s optimistic that a deal could be on the horizon.

“Once you have a lead donor, that’s a catalyst for future action, and really sets up the opportunity for other conversations,” Dal Cin said. “We’re in a positive place in that framework.”

All funding must be in place before planning for a new facility can begin. That means the current Richardson Stadium will remain in use for at least the 2014 collegiate football season, with an indefinite timeline after that.

Dal Cin said any new complex would be built on the site of the current stadium at West Campus, adding that construction would have to be performed out of season.

“There has to be no disruption in our football programming,” she said. “It’s not like we can take our football program and head off to another stadium somewhere within Kingston.”

Several rival Ontario schools have built or revamped their football stadiums over the past two decades. Queen’s lost the 2013 Yates Cup to Western at London’s TD Stadium, an artificial turf field that cost $10.5 million to construct in 2000.

At this point, Dal Cin said, Richardson simply isn’t sufficient.

“It’s coming to the end of its lifespan, basically. It’s not at the standard that current venues are at across our league,” she said. “When you compare it to U of T’s or Mac’s or Western’s venues, ours is far behind that.

“I think [Richardson is] a grand old lady. I think it’s served us well, but we need a newer edition.”

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