STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - Football coach Jeff Monken used a piece of history to help begin another chapter of Georgia Southern history. He wielded the shovel used by Coach Erk Russell at the ground breaking for Paulson Stadium decades ago as Monken and others broke ground on the stadium's first major expansion.
The expansion will include a $10 million Football Operations Center as well as 6,200 additional seats. The center will include coaches' offices, training rooms, video production, conference areas, as well as a Eagle Football Hall of Fame. The center comes as Southern prepares to join the Sunbelt Conference and move to a higher level of NCAA competition. They will move from Division I's Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
"If you look at the level we're joining, the conference we're joining, we need this facility to recruit and retain the players we'll need here at Georgia Southern," Monken said. "When people come here, whether it's recruits, fans, former players or others, they'll know this is an FBS program."
According to the university, the $10 million price tag for the 50,000 square foot center comes from private funding. Last year, university students voted to support two fees that would help with the stadium expansion.
"This is a huge stepping stone for Georgia Southern athletics and Georgia Southern University. It's part of our move to take this from a regionally branded university to a nationally branded university, stated GSU athletic director Tom Kleinlein.
The additional seating will include an upper deck added to the student/visitor side of Paulson. Lower level seating will be extended on both sides by Fall 2013. The upper deck is slated to be ready Fall 2014.
"It's going to be a showcase. We'll have teams coming in from all over the country and play us now that we're moved to the FBS. We also need that extra seating now because we're at 20,000 students. We need the extra to seat them," explained GSU president Dr. Brooks Keel.
For more details on the project, visit www.georgiasouthern.edu/journey.