Part 2 of Counting Down to Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium's Opening Night
August 09, 2019
This is week two of a four-part series on the $67.5 million reconstruction of Old Dominion University's football stadium that includes biographies of the people most responsible for the updated facility.
Last week, we ran a package of photographs, a timeline and maps of the new stadium.
From President John R. Broderick to alumnus Barry Kornblau, 11 men and women with different backgrounds and life stories played key roles in the construction of the stadium. ODU will open the renovated Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium when the Monarchs host Norfolk State on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m.
The new stadium will provide fans, students and alumni 16,000 new seats with back support and more leg room. There will also be new concession stands, restrooms and video board, in addition to three ribbon boards. The stadium's west side, which is topped by a new press box, is 94 feet tall. That's nearly twice as high as Foreman Field.
John R. Broderick, president, Old Dominion University
Under President Broderick's leadership, Old Dominion has emerged as a research leader in cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, bioelectrics and sea level rise and flooding resiliency, while preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow.
ODU has the second-largest percentage of graduates in STEM-H majors (science, technology, engineering, math and health care) of any doctoral school in Virginia. Since Broderick was named president in 2008, ODU has increased funding by nearly $890 million from public and private resources.
President Broderick has also focused ODU's efforts on social mobility. He worked with state officials to fund a $20 million Student Success Center and Learning Commons, where students receive counseling, tutoring and other services. The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators honored him with its President's Award in 2019.
Broderick attends many sporting events with his wife, First Lady Kate Broderick, and also has had a major impact on ODU athletics. He represented the Colonial Athletic Association on the NCAA President's Advisory Committee and was the CAA's representative on the 18 member NCAA Board of Directors.
He helped lead efforts to reinstitute football in 2009. In 2012, Old Dominion joined Conference USA and began playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He then served on and was later named chair of the C-USA board of directors. He also served on the NCAA Division I Presidents Forum.
By 2012, he recognized that ODU needed a larger stadium with more fan amenities. President Broderick played a major role in raising the private funds necessary to build a new stadium as well as acquiring the needed authority from the Commonwealth of Virginia to move the project forward.
The result was the reconstruction of Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
"Football has been a unifying force for the University," Broderick said. "It has provided a gathering point for alumni to come back to campus and has raised our national profile.
"The new stadium provides a much more comfortable experience for fans, students, alumni, faculty and others. And we've done it without raising student fees."
Greg Dubois, vice president for administration and finance
Greg came to Old Dominion University in 2017 with an impressive background in leadership, management and finance. He graduated from the University of Florida with bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting and is a certified public accountant. He spent 31 years at Florida, where he gained invaluable experience in university finances and operations and rose to the rank of Assistant Vice President.
He would call on much of that experience when he came to ODU and began overseeing the University's reconstruction of its football stadium. A boom in construction nationwide caused prices for construction materials to skyrocket over the previous two years, rendering the stadium's initial $55 million budget unrealistic.
President John R. Broderick tasked Vice President DuBois with overhauling the project with two caveats: there would be no increase in student fees and fans and students would have upgraded amenities.
Vice President DuBois and other University officials traveled to Florida Atlantic University, and ODU's new stadium incorporates many of the design elements of FAU Stadium, including similar chair back seats and bleacher seats with back support. The cost of the stadium rose to $65 million, but any costs beyond that would have to be raised from the private sector.
"One of the primary reasons for doing the stadium reconstruction was to improve the amenities for our fans," DuBois said. "They will have new restrooms, concession stands, bookstore outlets and nearly 16,000 new seats with better sight lines, more leg room and back support.
"This was a team effort and there were so many people behind the scenes who made this possible. This is a project that everyone at ODU should take pride in."
Alonzo C. Brandon, vice president for university advancement
Brandon has led Old Dominion's fundraising efforts for two decades and thus has a Rolodex deep with movers and shakers. So when athletic officials told Brandon they needed $1 million to build a video board at Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium, it only took him one phone call to find a donor.
He called J. Morgan Davis, president and CEO of TowneBank, who is an ODU graduate. "I know Morgan cares very much for his alma mater and thought this would be a good fit," he said.
Brandon is also an ODU graduate and he has helped his alma mater raise more than $308 million since John R. Broderick became the University's president in 2008. Brandon and President Broderick were among a group of fundraisers who successfully sought a $3 million donation from Barry Kornblau to name the stadium field. More than a decade ago, he also convinced Stephen Ballard and Dennis Ellmer, who are two of ODU's biggest athletic donors, to begin investing in the University.
When Brandon visited ODU as a high school senior, he saw Foreman Field and assumed the school played football. He didn't learn any differently until classes began. He believed then and believes now that football is an asset for ODU.
"I've long thought that having a football program would not only be great for the University but for the community, which at the time was fighting to get pro sports," he said. "I always thought, 'Why not get big-time football at ODU instead?'
"At homecoming we draw alumni from all over the country. Having a new stadium will only enhance that."
Dave Harnage, former chief operating officer
Harnage worked at Old Dominion University for two stints covering 21 years before retiring in June of 2017. He was the mastermind behind planning the renovated Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium from 2012 until his retirement, and a number of the design elements he envisioned for the final product remain.
Harnage is known as ODU's "master builder." When he came to ODU in the mid-1980s, the campus was a hodgepodge of architectural styles. He brought a uniform look in the 17 buildings whose development and construction he oversaw.
"No one knew where the campus stopped and started," he said. "In time, we developed uniformity of our buildings. Now, when you're on Hampton Boulevard, you know you are seeing Old Dominion University."
Harnage worked closely with five University presidents, and was especially close to President John R. Broderick. "David was the heart, soul and architect for the way our campus looks today," President Broderick said.
Harnage came from the University of Georgia, which has an attractive campus with a unique design. He was determined to bring a similar uniformity to ODU.
"I expected the outcome of the design process to create a building that enhanced the campus and we did not start construction until that was accomplished," he said. "It's a hugely complicated process to plan a building that is going to last for 50 or 100 years. When it's built and it's successful, it provides you with a great sense of satisfaction."
Jena Virga, senior associate athletic director
Virga is in charge of athletic fundraising for the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation and has overseen a huge growth in donations. ODAF raised a record $12.7 million in 2017 and increased that to $16.1 million in 2018. That's nearly double the $9.6 million ODAF raised in 2016.
That number surely will be larger when the books are closed on 2019. ODAF was originally tasked with raising $5 million for the renovation of Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium, but that amount was increased to $10 million to cover unanticipated costs, including the Priority Automotive Club and the TowneBank Video Board.
Much of that money came from the Priority Club itself, which generated more than $4 million in donations and ticket sales. Virga and others sold all 388 tickets, costing $7,500 for a group of four, by early March. Each of the 97 ticket holders donated at least $25,000 to the stadium.
Virga is an ODU alumnus who graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing management in 1979 and earned an MBA from ODU in 1981 while working full-time with a local bank. As chief fundraiser, she is perhaps the most powerful woman in the ODU athletic department.
She said getting past the $10 million mark was an emotional moment. "We received more than $10 million from 145 donors," she said. "It's almost unbelievable that our donors and fans stepped up and made this happen. If they hadn't, we wouldn't have the video board or new club or even perhaps the stadium.
"It's the culmination of so much hard work. It makes me so incredibly proud to be an alumnus of Old Dominion University."
Camden Wood Selig, athletic director
Since he came to ODU in 2010 from Western Kentucky Dr. Selig has overseen tremendous growth in the University's athletics program. Two years after he arrived, ODU joined Conference USA and began playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision. ODU also opened the $8.1 million Mitchum Basketball Performance Center and oversaw a $4.5 million expansion of football training facilities.
Dr. Selig hired men's basketball coach Jeff Jones, who won the Conference USA title last season, and women's basketball coach Nikki McCray-Penson, whose team might be favored to win the title this coming season.
He has also overseen the $67.5 million renovation of Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium. It is the most ambitious athletic facility built in Hampton Roads since ODU opened Chartway Arena at the Ted Constant Center nearly two decades ago.
"I believe the atmosphere there will be second to none," Dr. Selig said of the stadium. "It won't be the biggest nor the gaudiest stadium around. But we really wanted the fan amenities and we have them.
"Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium looks like an FBS stadium. It is a tremendous upgrade for our program."
Dr. Selig is a Norfolk native who graduated from Washington & Lee and worked at VCU and the University of Virginia, where he received his doctorate. As a young man growing up in Larchmont, he often watched Oyster Bowl and Norfolk Neptunes games at old Foreman Field.
"For 82 years, Foreman Field was such a meaningful place for so many people here," he said. "I believe our new stadium will leave a similar legacy, that it will have as much meaning for future generations as Foreman Field did for us."
Bruce Stewart, senior associate athletic director
Stewart's name isn't a household word for ODU football fans, but it probably should be. After helping Coastal Carolina University kick off a new football program, he came to Norfolk to help ODU do the same thing. He worked with coach Bobby Wilder on helping to design ODU's new football facilities and pieced together schedules that allowed the young Monarchs to win right away. ODU has been recognized for having the nation's most successful startup program.
Stewart has two advanced degrees from Ohio State - a master's in sports management and a law degree - and is known as a smart, tough negotiator who is focused on details.
"Bruce Stewart played such a major role in the development of our program," Wilder said. "Without Bruce, we wouldn't be where we are."
ODU was 9-2 and 8-3 in its first two seasons, then quickly became a Football Championship Subdivision national power. Without that success, it's doubtful ODU would have been invited to join Conference USA. When ODU moved up to FBS, Stewart negotiated home-and-home deals with North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Since construction began on the new football stadium late last year, nearly all of Stewart's time has been focused on that project. "Bruce basically gave up his spring and summer," athletic director Wood Selig said. "He has been consumed with the stadium."
Stewart said the new stadium will not only provide creature comforts for fans, but will also give ODU with a much better home advantage and is already having a major impact on recruiting.
"Give us a little time to get this facility rocking and I feel very confident about what our future will hold," he said.
Stephen Ballard, President and CEO, S.B. Ballard Construction
More than four decades ago, Ballard began what would become one of the most prominent construction firms in Virginia out of a small home he owned in Norfolk. He and his sister, Brenda, began competing for contracts to do renovations for the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
Eventually, he began to compete for other projects and began hiring employees. S.B. Ballard Construction would become one of the nation's largest concrete contractors with more than 800 employees. Following two recessions, Ballard now employs about 220 out of his Virginia Beach headquarters. He also has five other offices in the Southeast.
He was among the first to make a major donation to ODU's fledgling football program and won the contract in 2008 to renovate what would become known as Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
S.B. Ballard earned the contract in 2017 to demolish and rebuild the stadium in part because he was one of the few contractors who believed the project could be done in nine months. He also ranked far ahead of the competition on an impartial rating scale.
"What Stephen Ballard has done to get this stadium built in nine months is nothing short of a miracle," said Bruce Stewart, ODU's senior associate athletic director.
The list of projects Ballard has done in Hampton Roads is impressive: the Virginia Beach Boardwalk/Seawall reconstruction, Norfolk's MacArthur Center, the Sentara Norfolk General Heart Hospital and Norfolk's Peter G. Decker Jr. cruise ship terminal.
At ODU, he built Chartway Arena at the Ted Constant Center, two parking decks and most recently, the University's Education Building, which has become a signature landmark on campus. His firm is also completing work on James Madison University's new basketball arena and Eastern Virginia Medical School's 11-story, $80 million Walzer Hall.
Barry Kornblau, retired real estate developer
A Richmond native, Kornblau has donated to ODU athletics longer than perhaps anyone else. Old Dominion Athletic Foundation officials say he has made donations to ODU athletics for 41 consecutive years - as the long as the organization has been keeping records.
He's given $2 million to ODU baseball and bankrolls the annual ODU baseball banquet and university's radio network that reaches listeners in Richmond and western Virginia. And he was the first to endow a football scholarship.
His most recent donation was his most generous. Last December, it was announced that Kornblau gave $3 million for the renovation of S.B. Ballard Stadium. It was the largest athletics donation ODU has received in 13 years. The ODU Board of Visitors later authorized naming the field for Kornblau.
"I'm doing this for our alumni and our student-athletes," Kornblau said. "I want our team to have a decent place to play and a place for our alumni and students to attend games that has bathrooms, concessions stands and seating that are up to modern standards."
Kornblau has also given generously of his time, serving on the Board of Visitors three times and also on the alumni association, educational and athletic foundation boards. He was on the Board when ODU developed the University Village and hired John R. Broderick as President.
"Barry truly loves Old Dominion," President Broderick said. "And he's never sought any recognition. He just wants to help the University become a better place."
Dennis Ellmer, president and CEO, Priority Automotive
Raised in the blue-collar Bayview section of Norfolk, Ellmer worked at an auto parts store and delivered morning and afternoon newspapers to save money while attending Norview High. He then worked full-time while attending Tidewater Community College and ODU. In 1998, he took every dime he had saved, borrowed all the money he could and bought Jimmy Kline Chevrolet and Toyota. "If I didn't make it, I was done," he said.
But he made it in a big way. Priority Automotive now has 26 outlets in Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and North Carolina. He has donated to ODU athletics and academics for nearly two decades.
He made his largest donation in November, when he gave $1.5 million to help ODU build a luxury club at Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium. The Priority Automotive Club helped ODU generate nearly $4 million in donations and ticket sales from 97 donors who purchased nearly 400 tickets.
A father of three, Ellmer has raised millions of dollars for charities focused on helping local children. He also recently began a program in Chesapeake, with the help of Gov. Ralph Northam and the Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron, to train convicted felons in Norfolk to become auto mechanics. He has hired every graduate of that program.
He was among the first to donate to ODU football.
"I went Foreman Field as a kid and climbed the fence to watch the Norfolk Neptunes," he said. "I have been going to football games long before ODU had a football team.
"When ODU began talking about getting football, it was an exciting time and I wanted to get involved. When great things happen to ODU, it's a great thing for all of Hampton Roads."
J. Morgan Davis, president and CEO, TowneBank
Davis heads one of Virginia's largest banks, which had $11.9 billion in assets as of January and branches throughout most of Virginia and North Carolina. TowneBank is also involved in the insurance and realty businesses, from South Carolina to Maryland.
In 2018, he was rated the region's second-most-powerful person by Inside Business.
He's also a diehard booster of Old Dominion University, his alma mater. So when he received a call from Alonzo Brandon, ODU's vice president for university advancement, asking for a $1 million donation to sponsor the video board at the new Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium, he answered with a resounding yes.
"It is with pride, ODU pride, that Towne supports ODU as the sponsor of the new, state-of-the-art video board," he said.
"As an ODU alum and CEO of TowneBank, I am very proud of both ODU and the Towne family."
The TowneBank Video Board was recently installed and will provide ODU fans with NFL-quality replays. It will be similar to the replay board at Chartway Arena at the Ted Constant Center.
Davis has been in banking for 45 years. He was the founding CEO and president of Princess Anne Commercial Bank and a founding member of TowneBank. He was named Virginia Beach's First Citizen in 2017 and King Neptune in 2005.
Davis also gives generously of his time to local philanthropic projects, serving on the board of Goodwill Industries and as a volunteer for Operation Smile. He plays the piano at many events, including performances for the homeless at local churches.