The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has a long-term plan to build offices, meeting rooms and more for the football program in a building separate from McKenzie Arena. In the short term, if Don Lepard gets his wish, lights will be going up at Scrappy Moore Field.
A former UTC offensive lineman (1979-81) and teammate of Mocs coach Russ Huesman, Lepard is the owner of Global Green Lighting -- a leading developer in energy-efficient LED lights. Lepard said he is donating the lights and poles, with a projected retail value of around $200,000, and hopes to have them up at UTC's practice facility in time for preseason practice in August.
"This will be the first time we've done something like this, and we're excited about it," Lepard said, adding that each of the poles, possibly 10 total, will be about 50 feet tall, with around 10 LED lights on each pole.
The lights are developed specifically for practice fields, he said. They won't be as bright as stadium lights, so the user saves on electricity, but they will be bright enough to be effective, Lepard said.
Scrappy Moore Field has been UTC's practice facility for decades, though it looks nothing like it did when Lepard and Huesman played for Joe Morrison. It got a major face-lift in 2010 courtesy of former Moc John Murphy and his wife Renee Haugerud, and part of that work was wiring for lights.
Under Lepard's direction, Scrappy also will be, in essence, a practice spot for Global Green Lighting, which is just beginning to develop sports lights.
"Scrappy Moore's going to be the first place we've put these lights in, and we're going to donate that to the university," he said. "It will be a beta test site."
Not only will the LED lights be useful toward the end of each season when the practices in November end at dusk, but they will make a difference in the winter as well.
"Lights down there would help us in a lot of ways. You never, ever have to worry about rain and pushing practice back two hours. We'll get it in because we've got lights," Huesman said. "The thing we can't do [without lights] is have winter conditioning in the elements in the morning, and there's no way I'm making a kid go down to Finley Stadium at 6 o'clock in the morning in their cars."
The university has been meeting and developing a campus-wide facilities master plan for many months. According to UTC spokesman Chuck Cantrell, an updated draft of those plans will be unveiled today.
Among the elements of the plan involving UTC athletics will be either a massive upgrade to McKenzie Arena or possibly the construction of a new basketball arena. The football team is expected to get its own building in the years to come.
All across the Southern Conference, football programs have their own offices. Elon and Samford recently have built stadium-adjacent buildings, and Furman is raising funds for major upgrades to its facilities.
Adding football offices to the UTC campus not only would help football but would free up space that can used by others, athletic director Rick Hart said.
"We've got identified needs as it relates to space and efficiency," he said. "In order for us to address those, especially shorter term, we've got to move some functions out of the arena. There's just too much going on in here.
"So when you start to look at that, football makes sense to look at among your first priorities because they're one of our largest populations, as far as coaches, student-athletes and staff, that we're trying to serve. And there's a lot of community and private interest in that sport from a fundraising perspective."
Huesman said the Mocs have all they need to be successful, but he wouldn't mind having a little more space.
"They've taken care of us here, and if they feel like a building with new offices is the way to go, I'm all for it, obviously," he said. "I think it will help. It will help in a lot of aspects, like day-to-day life for our players and our coaches, as well as in recruiting."