rendering of potential stadium entryway

UNA Breaks Ground on Bank Independent Stadium; Project on Track for 2026 Completion Date

Jun. 14, 2024

Michelle R. Eubanks , UNA, at, 256.765.4392

After more than 50 years of planning, hoping, and dreaming, the Bank Independent Stadium project at the University of North Alabama got a big step closer to fruition as members of the UNA Board of Trustees, campus administration, and Bank Independent representatives gathered Friday afternoon at the site of the on-campus stadium to break ground.  

The event came just a few hours after members of the Board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing and supporting Bank Independent Stadium design and overall budgetary approach, which paved the way for moving the project into its third and final phase. 

“Today’s groundbreaking further solidifies our Board’s commitment to fund this capital project,” said Will Trapp, President Pro Tempore of UNA’s Board. “As with most things here at UNA, it takes everyone doing their part and working together for these opportunities to make the most impact. We have received great support from alumni and friends, community organizations, and, of course, from our naming rights partner, Bank Independent. 

“That base of funding will be supplemented by enhancements in athletic revenue from having our own stadium. We also view this investment in UNA Athletics as one for the Shoals community as well. Our hope is that it will be a place for people to come together in support of this University and make memories that will join them to us and to each other. We need to invest in things that bring us together. Our students asked for this years ago, and it’s exciting to see it finally happening.”  

The launch of the historic Shine On, Gold comprehensive campaign to raise $100 million for UNA has helped propel this project forward. 

“The fundraising success we have experienced this far – and less than a full year into the Shine On, Gold comprehensive campaign – indicates that we have tremendous support and momentum for Bank Independent Stadium as well as for the other priorities that are part of the campaign,” said UNA President Dr. Ken Kitts. “It is gratifying to witness the great excitement for this project and to note how it compliments the growth and academic success of the institution as we approach our third century of offering educational excellence.” 

Representatives from Bank Independent were also on hand for the groundbreaking, including Bank Independent President Macke Mauldin. 

“Bank Independent is proud to be part of this historic project at the University of North Alabama,” he said. “As a community bank, we are deeply committed to investing in initiatives that make a positive difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors. Whether it’s a football or baseball game, a soccer match, a concert or community gathering, Bank Independent Stadium will provide a state-of-the-art facility for all of north Alabama. This facility will not only bring excitement and pride but also a significant economic impact, acting as a catalyst for growth in our region.” 

The Bank Independent Stadium has a base cost of approximately $65 million. To date, total fundraising for the stadium has soared to $25 million, and officials expect to add significantly to that figure once work on the project begins. The UNA Board has authorized the institution to borrow up to $35 million toward the cost of construction. Additionally, the UNA Department of Athletics reserved funds for this project during the planning process and will make those available for construction. Stadium proceeds in areas such as concessions, parking, signage, sponsorships, and ticket sales will help as well. Officials note that they have options and enhancements ready to incorporate into the project should additional donors give in significant ways. 

As fundraising via the Shine On, Gold comprehensive campaign continues, the design approved by the Board includes capacity for more than 10,000 Lions fans as well as other amenities, including the ability for future expansion, a 360-degree fan concourse, a premium tower featuring a new weight room, 13 spacious suites, a multipurpose stadium club, outdoor gathering areas, and multiple seating options with new fan amenities. Construction is expected to begin immediately with a goal of full project completion in Fall 2026. 

“The vision, leadership, and generosity of our donors is truly remarkable,” said Kevin Haslam, Vice President for Advancement. “We are here today because of them and their desire to make a profound positive impact not only at UNA and in the Shoals but across all of northwest Alabama. This is a very special place, these are very special people, and, together, we are doing transformational things.” 

With the start of construction, North Alabama Athletic Director Dr. Josh Looney said he is eager to see the next phase begin. 

“Our hope is, of course, that we are in Bank Independent Stadium and ready to play our first home football game during the 2026 season,” he said. “Our plan to be at this point – this historic groundbreaking – just one year after we announced Bank Independent Stadium is on track, and it 

is super exciting to see how the UNA campus and the greater Shoals community have come together to create and support this incredible opportunity.”  

Concurrent with construction on Bank Independent Stadium, work will also be taking place at the baseball field adjacent to the stadium and at the UNA Spring Sports Complex at Cox Creek.  

The location will include a multipurpose turf field and track that will be available for academic, athletic, intramural, and community use. UNA’s football and soccer teams will use the multipurpose field during construction. In 2026-2027, as Bank Independent Stadium prepares to open, the Marching Pride will become the primary tenant of the Spors Complex at Cox Creek; this will give them a dedicated practice facility that mirrors that of other Division I programs. Florence-based Carbine Construction was selected as general contractors for the Cox Creek project. 

UNA Baseball will enjoy a reimagined space for the 2025 season that will include a new state-of-the-art playing surface, an all-chairback seating concourse, a video board, and a unique outfield wall that resembles Fenway Park’s historic “Green Monster.” While site construction will continue into 2026, the majority of baseball’s team and fan amenities are targeted to come online in 2025. 

“We are working to ensure baseball’s space will be as complete as possible to host practices in January, followed by home competition in March 2025,” said Dr. Looney. “While we will address logistics to host baseball competition through the construction process, we plan for baseball to play its 2025 season on campus and believe fans will enjoy some of the new experiences we will be integrating as part of the space.” 

During the last 12 months, UNA has partnered with Hoar Project Management (HPM) and Davis Architects, both based in Birmingham, to begin the initial work on Bank Independent Stadium. Mammoth Sports Construction partnered with Davis Architects, and Birmingham-based Jim Cooper Construction was awarded the Phase One construction bid to include baseball construction and stadium site groundwork. Representatives from HPM, Davis, Mammoth, and Cooper were on hand for the groundbreaking. 

“The start of construction of Bank Independent Stadium signifies a new chapter for UNA’s athletic program and the City of Florence, and HPM is ecstatic to be part of this dynamic project,” said Ben Henson, Vice President of Program Development at HPM. “Bank Independent Stadium will be a transformative addition to the University, ushering in a new era of growth for the school and bringing best-in-class recreational and entertainment offerings to the community.”

In 2018, when the Student Government Association passed a resolution in favor of an on-campus stadium, the document indicated the willingness of students to shoulder a fee as part of making the dream a reality. Just six years later, and as the project becomes a reality, University officials are clear: There is no plan now or in the future to assess a student fee in order to build or operate Bank Independent Stadium. 

In fact, at the Board meeting authorizing and supporting Bank Independent Stadium, the Board also unanimously approved the 2024-2025 tuition schedule, which includes no increases for undergraduate students for a second consecutive year.  

About The University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama is an accredited, comprehensive regional state university offering undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs through the colleges of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering; the Sanders College of Business and Technology; Education and Human Sciences; and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions. Occupying a 130-acre campus in a residential section of Florence, Alabama, UNA is located within a four-city area that also includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. UNA Athletics, a renowned collegiate athletics program with seven (7) Division II National Championships, is now a proud member of the NCAA Division I’s ASUN and United Athletic Conferences. The University of North Alabama is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate in the admission policy on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, age, or national origin.