Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin said a short-term deal is already in place with play starting this fall. Four games will be played this season at the 8,500-seat stadium. The stadium, built in 1959, is currently used by the Northern High School football team.
Durham County Stadium was a good location because there are currently students from Shaw University in Durham and the I-85 corridor would provide better access for alumni to watch the games, Ruffin said.
Shaw University originally approached county officials in April and the Durham County Stadium Authority helped to broker the agreement.
“This is a proud day for Shaw University. Securing a new venue for the football program aligns with the academic prestige and progressive goals of excellence that are hallmarks of the University," said Shaw University President Clarence Newsome "Durham County has opened the doors to an elevated level of possibilities and we are thrilled about the renewed spirit that this is sure to bring to the entire Shaw Family. Raleigh-Durham is a seamless metropolitan area and the collegiate-like stadium was available. We are very excited about this new chapter in the future of Shaw University football.”
Durham County officials also want to make renovations and upgrades to the stadium. The stadium upgrades could include a new kind of astroturf, 8-lane track and a possible presidents' box. The deal would also enable Durham to host other events like state high school championship games and track meets.
“Having this stadium as a home field brings a bigger measure of validation and prestige to our football program. The stadium will assist with recruitment initiatives and provide our student-athletes with a 'spirit of home,'" said head football coach Darryl Asberry.
The deal comes as a major blow to Raleigh who had hoped to secure a deal to keep the university's games in the capital city. Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said he was surprised and caught off-guard to hear about Shaw's plans to play in Durham. He said he had even earmarked money in the parks/recreation budget to assist Shaw University.
In the past, the Raleigh City Council had tried to come up with a proposal for a multimillion-dollar sports complex that would serve as home field for Shaw University and St. Augustine's College. Meeker announced in April that the city would not be able to afford such a site. Some Raleigh residents also voiced their opposition to the proposed stadium over concerns about noise and traffic.
Meeker said the city would lose on a lot of opportunities because of the decision. He said he plans to talk to the Raleigh City Council next week to conduct a feasibility study into other options. One of those options may include athletic and community center complex on the campus of Shaw University.
In a letter to Meeker, Newsome sought the mayor's assistance in the formation of 47,000-square-foot, three-story facility that could be used for multiple sporting events and recreational activities. Newsome said the complex would cost $7 million to $8 million and he asked the mayor to include $4 million in the parks/recreation budget to help support its construction.
Ruffin said Northern High will continue to use Durham County Stadium for its events. A public meeting to discuss stadium renovations will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Northern High School.
Officials with the county and Shaw University hope to come up with a long-term deal, but one of the sticking points involve signage at the stadium.
Shaw's first home game is scheduled for 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15 against Morehouse University.