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Naval Academy to increase stadium seating by 2015

ANNAPOLIS — The Naval Academy Athletic Association plans to spend $16 million to increase seating in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium by about 10 percent in preparation for the academy’s transition to the Big East Conference in 2015.

The association hopes to add 3,000 to 4,000 seats to the facility, which currently has 34,000. Plans also include installation of high-definition video boards in the end zones, and new club-level seating on the upper east side of the stadium, said academy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk.

“We’ve had as many as 38,000 (fans) in the facility,” Gladchuk said. “So anytime you add roughly 3,000 to 4,000 (seats), it’s going to give us the opportunity to be a little more stable with 36,000 to 38,000.”

Other renovations include the addition of a new media center and upgrades to the locker room, which last was renovated in 1995. New seats were last added in 2010, with the addition of four luxury boxes on the stadium’s upper east side.

The renovations are part of a larger project spread out in several phases beginning in 2003. The upcoming additions are phase four of the project.

“We’re still developing the plan; it’s not something we’ve finalized yet,” said Gladchuk. “There’s a number of hurdles, including raising the dollars to do it.”

All the funding will come from donations and fundraising, Gladchuk said.

Tentative plans call for phase four to begin in 2013 with the locker room and scoreboard upgrades. The new seats will be the last of the renovations, scheduled for 2015, when Navy begins Big East play.

Gladchuck said there will be no noticeable increase in ticket prices once the renovations are complete.

“I was here 10 years ago when we were struggling, and we had loyal fans who stayed with the program despite losing years,” he said. “So I feel compelled to make sure ticket prices are affordable for fans and friends.”

The program’s transition to a large, competitive conference also could mean bigger crowds and a boost to Annapolis’ tourist industry, which already draws 2 million visitors annually.

“Additional visitors are always good,” said Lara Fritts, president of the Annapolis Economic Development Corp. “In terms of 4,000 more people, that means potentially 4,000 more people eating at our restaurants, staying at our hotels and supporting our local economy.”