Some of North Texas’ players set out on a dead sprint. Others bounded. A few skipped as the doors rolled up at the Lovelace & McNatt Families Practice Facility earlier this fall.
The Mean Green toiled in the heat for weeks on the field adjacent to the venue as construction wrapped up during preseason practice.
This was the team’s first chance to get a feel for UNT’s newest facility, one athletic director Wren Baker and football coach Seth Littrell believe will provide a boost for a program already on the rise.
“We are in a market where there is a lot of talent, but there are a lot of people recruiting that talent, including some of the best programs around the country with some of the best facilities,” Baker said. “Not having an indoor previously was an issue. We have gone from not having one to having one that is as a good as any in the country.”
UNT will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $16 million venue from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday before the Mean Green’s 3 p.m. game against Middle Tennessee.
The event will give UNT fans a chance to get a better look at the facility that includes a full football field, with an additional 10 yards tacked on at one end to give the Mean Green a little extra room to work.
“The new indoor facility is huge for a lot of different reasons, including recruiting, elevating our brand and letting players know that when they come here, we are going to get them what they need to be successful,” Littrell said. “We want to make sure they have a great experience at North Texas and show that we are going to take care of them. Part of that is making sure they have what they need.”
UNT’s indoor facility is air conditioned and has several added features, including a recruiting lounge.
One side of the venue features a giant Mean Green sign that lights up green at night and is visible from the Interstate 35W, one of the main thoroughfares in the region.
Some of the features UNT added will make the venue useful for the school’s other programs. There are track lanes running down one side of the field with a sand pit at one end the track program will use.
“It’s incredible to be in the new indoor [facility],” UNT defensive lineman Dion Novil said. “We have talked about it for years. To see it happen was great. We won’t miss any days now because of the weather. It will also keep us fresh.”
Jim McNatt and his family gave $3 million toward construction of UNT’s indoor venue in the fall of 2018, just days after Don Lovelace and his family gave $2.5 million toward the project.
“When we started talking about this project and how important it is to recruiting, development and the health and safety of our athletes, both of those guys jumped in,” Baker said. “In a short period of time they gave the two largest gifts the athletic department has ever had. Without their generosity, without their vision, without their passion for our student-athletes, this project wouldn’t have happened.”
UNT is hoping the addition of the venue will help bolster a program that has played in a bowl game in each of the last three seasons.
The Mean Green’s current players couldn’t be happier with what they saw after racing into it for the first time.
“I can’t thank the donors enough,” UNT wide receiver Michael Lawrence said. “I’m glad I got to get in it my senior year.”