Calling it "a big and bold plan," Mayor Paul Fraim said Friday he saw plenty to like in a proposed campus master plan for Old Dominion University that would include a new, 30,000-seat football stadium.
Fraim and City Manager Marcus Jones were briefed on the plan by ODU President John Broderick, Chief Operating Officer Dave Harnage and athletic director Wood Selig. Fraim said he has seen only a presentation, not any documents on the master plan.
"Our planning staff hasn't begun to evaluate this, and at some point they will," he said. "But I applaud President Broderick and his administration for being so visionary. It has the potential to dramatically improve the academic reputation of the university and to bring enormous benefits to the entire Hampton Roads community."
Fraim said the plan includes additional housing for thousands of students and the grouping of residential, academic and research facilities into pods.
"They want to bring similar academic operations together," Fraim said. "It will bring some dramatic changes to their campus."
He said the plan projects ODU's student population to increase about 1 percent per year but for faculty and especially research employee rolls to grow much faster. The expansion of ODU's research facilities will create jobs, he said.
The executive committee of ODU's Board of Visitors was briefed Monday on the proposed master plan, which hasn't been released to the public. The plan deals with every building on campus, from residential halls to classrooms, as well as recreational space.
ODU likely doesn't need the city's approval for the plan, since it involves state property, but Broderick and Fraim said they want to come to a consensus before it is implemented.
ODU officials said Friday that the plan also calls for a softball stadium to be built adjacent to the new football stadium. ODU would begin playing softball and volleyball within a few years, Selig said.
Broderick said that the plan includes an expansion of the L.R. Hill Sports Complex, where ODU's football team has its offices, weight training facilities, locker rooms and practice fields.
Replacing or expanding Foreman Field, the 77-year-old stadium that is the home of the football team, was one of the major tasks involved in the development of the master plan. Selig said officials quickly determined that expanding Foreman Field was not financially feasible.
Instead, they proposed building a stadium on the west side of the campus, at 48th Street and Powhatan Avenue at the southwestern edge of the Larchmont neighborhood. The stadium would be expandable in three or four stages, Fraim said.
Fraim, who lives in Larchmont, said it appears to be the best alternative available.
"Old Dominion officials think this is the only place they can build a new stadium," Fraim said. "And I think I agree with them."
Moving the stadium half a mile from Hampton Boulevard likely would bring increased traffic into Larchmont, Edgewater and Lamberts Point. Fraim said he believes that by working with the city, ODU can minimize those problems.
"I think it can work," he said. "I hope it can work."
Speaking for the first time publicly about the stadium proposal, Broderick cautioned that the plan could change as ODU officials meet with neighborhood leaders, students and faculty.
"I really feel strongly that this is a significant step forward, not only for the university and coach Bobby Wilder and his football program, but also the city of Norfolk and entire Hampton Roads region.
"But a lot needs to occur before anything is finalized.
"Master plans typically get vetted over a period of time. Ultimately you make minor and sometimes more major adjustments to it. If this is a 10-step process, we're kind of in steps three or four."
Neighborhood leaders in Larchmont, Lamberts Park and Highland Park praised ODU for working with them on the Ted Constant Convocation Center arena that opened in 2002 and when ODU began playing football at Foreman Field in 2009. Broderick said ODU plans to work with neighborhood leaders in a similar way with the stadium.
"We're going to spend the same amount of time with them as we did with Foreman Field and the Constant Center," he said.
Laurie Chapman, who heads the Larchmont-Edgewater Civic League, said via email that ODU "will get an earful from some Edgewater residents" opposed to the stadium's being so close to their neighborhood.
But she said she's glad to hear that ODU officials will meet with the civic league, which she said will remain neutral until a meeting is held.
"We need details," she said.
Harry Minium, 757-446-2371, email@example.com