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Realizing The Dream

groundbreakingsliderOwls breaks ground at site of new on-campus stadium

Florida Atlantic’s dream of an on-campus stadium was approved over a month ago, but Friday afternoon that goal became visible as ground was officially broken for the project.

“What a wonderful response, what a wonderful day, what a wonderful group of people we have here together, for such a wonderful idea,” Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger said of the groundbreaking.

Schnellenberger and fans have long awaited the construction of a stadium on the Boca Raton Campus, and the time has finally come as the facility is expected to host its first football game next fall around this time.

FAU’s football team and band started the afternoon’s ceremony off, by marching down the school’s breezeway to the new stadium’s location in the north central area of campus.

The 30,000-seat stadium, which is still awaiting naming rights, was trademarked by new FAU President Mary Jane Saunders as “Between the Palms,” and that was made clear at the ground breaking festivities as she and others held shovels in front of two palm trees hanging a banner with the slogan.

“Were FAU, we have the Burrow, we have palm trees, it’s definitely something you have to trademark,” Student Government President Ayden Maher said of the theme.

Schnellenberger, Saunders, Chancellor Florida Frank T. Brogan, FAU Athletic Director Craig Angelos, Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel, and Board of Trustees Chair Nancy Blosser were all on hand to speak in front of a large gathering of students, boosters, alumni, and fans.

Maher and Student Government put the event together and the support for the stadium was shown.

“This is a game changer for Florida Atlantic University,” said Maher.

The student run organization made the biggest contribution of any donor to the stadium fund and Maher explained that it was because the students are the athletics biggest financial supporters.

“SGA was able to donate a million dollars in CITF funds (Capital Investment Trust Funds),” Maher said. “A million dollars is a big contribution and the largest to date, hopefully other donors pony up and make a similar contribution.”

Two former Owl football players, Jared Allen and Anthony Jackson, spoke at the event and commenting how much the stadium will have an effect on former, current, and future players, and the University at large.

“This university has been missing something, and I truly believe that this stadium was the missing piece", said Allen, a member of both the Owl’s inaugural football team and current coaching staff. “As a former player, it means a lot, and I know I can speak on behalf of a lot of former teammates who have been looking forward to this day.”

The stadium, which will serve as the centerpiece for the school’s Innovation Village, gained its final approval on September 14th by the state’s Board of Governors. Construction began shortly after the approval, and Friday marked the start of a tight timetable with an expected completion date of October 15, 2011.

Having a total project cost of $69.7 million dollars, the open-air stadium will feature all of the state of the art amenities and 6,000 premium level seats.

Not only will the University and its supporters benefit from the stadium, but the city of Boca Raton will see some valuable gains. Whelchel explained that the city’s economy would see a projected impact of $1.7 million dollars.

“We could not be more proud that FAU is here in the city of Boca Raton,” Whelchel said.

After the groundbreaking, attendees participated in a football tailgate across from the construction site next to the Marleen & Harold Forkas Alumni Center.

All of the event speakers were inspirational, but it was Schnellenberger who had the quote of the afternoon.

“I promise you this, get that stadium up, get us in there and were going to do things that nobody thought was possible,” Schnellenberger said.

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