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UConn moves forward with plans for new athletic fields

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STORRS, Conn. (AP) The University of Connecticut's Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved spending $4.75 million to design its ''Athletic District,'' which will include new stadiums for soccer, baseball and softball.

The project, which school officials have estimated will cost about $46 million, is being paid for through donations and a surcharge on athletic tickets.

The school has so far raised $15 million of a planned $25 million from private donors, with pledges for another $2 million.

The school also hopes to raise about $1.5 million a year for the fields through adding an extra $5 to the cost of a football ticket, $2 for hockey and basketball tickets and $1 for a ticket to soccer matches. UConn officials said that will support the borrowing that will be needed up-front to complete the project.

The school built a $59 million state-of-the art practice facility for its football program in 2006 and opened a $40 million basketball practice facility in 2014.

But the current baseball and softball fields don't have lights, running water or restrooms. Athletic Director David Benedict said the new facilities are needed to bring UConn up to par with rival institutions and attract top athletes.

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''We're not an athletic program that has one sport or two sports,'' he said. ''It's important that nationally we have a brand and that people, when they think about UConn they think about excellence across the board.''

The new stadiums will be located on the same site or near the current fields on the west side of the campus, which is just down Jim Calhoun Way from the Gampel Pavilion basketball arena.

A recent feasibility study calls for a 5,500-seat soccer stadium, which also would include a practice field and locker rooms. The baseball field would be 1,500 seats and would include a press box, luxury boxes and dugouts with restrooms. The softball field, which would have similar amenities, would include 500 seats.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2018. Benedict said it's too early to say when they will open.

The school also plans to either replace or renovate its on-campus hockey rink, a requirement from Hockey East when the men's team became part of that conference in 2014. The men's team currently plays all of its home games at the aging XL Center in Hartford.

The funding from the board of trustees includes site planning to allow for a new rink in the athletic district, but no money for design or construction of that facility.