PEMBROKE — The University of North Carolina at Pembroke athletics department announced on Saturday that it agreed to a 15-year partnership with Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation that includes the naming rights to the soccer field.
The changing of the venue’s name from the Varsity Grounds to Lumbee River EMC Stadium is a result of the $500,000 donation, which will also go toward facility improvements to the field that is home to the men’s and women’s soccer programs, as well as many other community events.
“The kids are here for a short amount of time — four to five years. Any time they can see those building blocks, locker rooms, grandstands, amenities, it tells the story that we are committed and going in the right direction,” UNCP Athletic Director Dick Christy said.
“This investment is a game-changer for us,” said Lars Andersson, UNCP women’s soccer head coach. “We will now have one of the best facilities in the Peach Belt (Conference), we will now have one of the best facilities in Division II and it will allow us to try and attract some of the best players in the Southeast.”
This is the second facility naming rights sponsorship with a local business under Christy as last fall the court inside the English Jones Center was dedicated to Lumbee Guaranty Bank.
“Being able to tell our story and try and show our partners return on investment, I think that message has been reciprocated around the community,” he said. “We have a lot we still need to do, but partnerships like this and leadership like (LREMC CEO) Steven’s (Hunt), they see the vision of what we’re trying to do. We have to align with major brands like that if we’re going to go where I think we are capable of going.”
LREMC is a member-owned electric cooperative that has 50,000 members in the Hoke, Scotland, Cumberland and Robeson County area, the same area that the university caters to. For the cooperative, the partnership was the right fit as it works closely with the university with several events.
“We’ve always been partners. We serve pretty much some of the same territory, we operate in the same region pretty much,” said Roger Oxendine, chairman of the LREMC board of directors. “Lumbee River has always been about educations. We offer six scholarships to graduating seniors already. Just to be able to help out these beautiful women, this soccer program at UNCP, is just great. We are just thankful that we had funds enough that when we had the opportunity that Chancellor (Robin) Cummings presented to us that we were able to do this great thing.”
Cummings said that this gift is another example of how the community is giving back to help the university. He cited the beginnings of the university to community support and not this 15-year partnership is another of the many ways the local area is helping out.
“We have a commitment to those students to give them a strong education, but also to exhibit their skills on a field worthy of their talents,” he said.”It’s always been about the community stepping up and helping this university.
“This is the most recent, but certainly the most significant — if not the most significant — ways this community has stood up and said, ‘We believe in this university and what you’re doing.’”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.