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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Groundbreaking ceremony set for Meade Stadium October 8

Media Contact: URI Communications, 401-874-2116

Private fundraising drive reaches $430,000 toward $500,000 goal

RI construction firm selected for west stand portion of
nearly $2 million renovation project

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 5, 2005 – University officials will break ground on October 8 for construction of the west stands in Meade Stadium, formally ushering in a nearly $2 million effort that will dramatically alter the 76-year-old “Home of the Rams,” it was announced today by URI President Robert L. Carothers.

“I’m pleased that we can begin the construction of the west stands during Homecoming Weekend when so many of those who built a football tradition at URI return to the campus,” said Carothers. “This project was made possible in large part by the generosity of the many former football players who supported fund-raising efforts that began just five months ago. The groundbreaking ceremonies, to be part of half-time ceremonies during the game against Towson, is one way we can honor the commitment of our alumni and fans.”

Maron Construction Co. Inc. of Providence was awarded the contract for the west stands project, scheduled for completion in time for the 2006 football season. With annual sales in excess of $16 million, Maron is a general contractor involved in the renovation, design and construction of schools, hospitals, city and state buildings.

The project will restore significant seating capacity lost during the construction of the Thomas M. Ryan Center. The west stands will provide fan access to the Ryan Center’s concourse for concessions, rest rooms and other amenities. The new stands will accommodate 2,080 fans in 1,292 chair-back seats, 708 bench seats, 40 wheelchair spaces and 40 companion seats.

A new scoreboard and refurbishment of the east stands, also part of the plan, were completed in time for this season’s home opener against Fordham on September 3. The east stand renovations include colored blue vinyl coverings for the bleacher seating.

The Meade Stadium project is being funded with pledges of about $500,000 from football boosters and a $500,000 University match of the booster contributions. The project is also being funded with $150,000 from seat donations and $450,000 from other URI sources. The University provided $350,000 for the new scoreboard installation and the renovations to the east stands. In addition, the University has set aside monies for a comprehensive master plan for other improvements to Meade Stadium.

More than $430,000 has already been raised toward the $500,000 goal through the private fundraising initiative co-chaired by former football teammates Tom Cataldo, class of 1971, and Kurt Wicks, class of 1973.

"To remain competitive in the nation's best I-AA football conference, the Atlantic 10, and in our overall intercollegiate and student recreational programming, we need to improve our facilities,” said Tom McElroy, director of athletics. “Through the efforts of more than 100 former football players and friends the first piece is now underway. I hope their generosity will inspire many other former student-athletes to support the success of URI’s athletic program.”

The October 8 Homecoming weekend activities include the Hall of Fame induction of the University’s 1984 and 1985 football teams. The two winningest football teams in school history, the Rams posted back-to-back 10-3 records, won Yankee Conference titles, advanced to the NCAA I-AA playoffs and won consecutive Lambert-Meadowlands Cups, emblematic of the top team in the East. This induction will mark the first time that an entire team has been enshrined since the URI Athletic Hall of Fame began honoring athletic greats in 1959.

Meade Stadium Facts

Meade Stadium has been home to some great moments in University of Rhode Island football history, including conference championships, NCAA playoff wins and last-second victories.

• Meade Stadium was named in honor of the late John E. “Jack” Meade (Class of ‘15). A devoted fan, he was said to have never missed a home football or basketball game until his death in 1972 at the age of 78. Meade was the holder of the number “1” certificate as a registered professional engineer and was the deputy director of public works and engineer for the city of Providence for 32 years. A powerful leader in the General Assembly, Meade was named by Governor Theodore F. Green to the Board of Regents for Rhode Island State College (later named the University of Rhode Island) and Rhode Island College of Education.

• State-of-the-art in the mid-30s’: In 1934, the wooden bleachers at what was then Meade Field were replaced with the former concrete stands. That same year, a new brick field house was constructed to the west of the stands. According to the late William Woodward, author of the book, Keaney, the late Angelo Gencarelli, a loyal alumnus, built the new facility. Photos from early yearbooks show gleaming white concrete stands with the stately field house in the background. Those concrete stands and field house were razed to make way for the Ryan Center, which opened in 2002.

• When Keaney tried to learn to drive: In the 1930s, legendary coach Frank Keaney got the most out of his athletes by assembling them into work crews during the summer. They built the original baseball field and original track (which encircled Meade Field) while working 40-hour weeks. Ted Clarke, class of 1940, remembers working on these projects with athletes like Duke Abbruzzi and Warner Keaney. Clarke, a URI Hall of Famer in track and cross-country, said working for Keaney was a riot. “When his wife decided to teach him how to drive, she started him on the track,” Clarke said. “Keaney got in and drove the car right into the concrete stands. He got out and never drove again. We were all in hysterics.”

• Student-athletes helped out: Legend has it that student-athletes under the tutelage of Keaney helped build the concrete stands by pouring concrete and setting the molds.

• Athletics renaissance: Woodward notes in his book, that when the football stands, field house and new baseball field had been completed, “Keaney’s athletic domain had achieved the dimensions of a renaissance.”

• The Keaney Era begins: In 1920--Frank Keaney, the Rams’ all-time great coach and inventor of the fast-break, arrives at Rhode Island State College to be the director of athletics, to coach football, basketball, baseball, track and cross-country, and teach chemistry. Not only does he quote Shakespeare in practice; he invents the famed Keaney Blue in his chemistry lab. This Renaissance man, however, never does learn how to drive.

• When URI was Rhode Island State College: In the 1934-35 academic year, 1,096 students were enrolled at Rhode Island State College. In 1953, when Keaney Gymnasium was completed at URI, enrollment was 2,183. Today, enrollment is 14,577, and the University has 2,500 employees.

• Home turf: The concrete stands served as the “home side” of Meade Field, until 1978 when a new permanent stands were built on the east side of the football field. At the time, Meade Field was renamed Meade Stadium.