The vision for a football program at UNC Charlotte is becoming reality as construction moves into high gear on a $47 million stadium complex.
Construction crews kept pace last week, despite icy temperatures and winds that sent many people looking for cover indoors.
The planned 15,000-seat stadium - being built on fields that once were used for intramurals - can be expanded to 40,000 seats.
The stadium will be part of a complex that also includes a field house and two practice fields.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
A press box with media seating, a university box and television and radio booths will be built along the west sideline at the concourse level.
The Charlotte 49ers team is expected to play its first football game on McColl-Richardson Field in 2013. The team's inaugural home game is slated for Aug. 31, 2013, against the Campbell University Camels.
The football field is named for Carolina Panthers principal owner Jerry Richardson and former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl.
The naming rights are worth $2.5 million, university officials said.
The 49ers hired former Wake Forest assistant Brad Lambert last year as head coach. He immediately started recruiting for the first 49ers football team.
Sixty-three full scholarships are up for grabs over the next few years for the university's Football Championship Subdivision team.
The university broke ground on the stadium April 28. Lambert said it was perhaps the program's most important day.
University officials said the football program is also a win for Charlotte. They hope the program will strengthen the bond between the university and the community by creating excitement on and off campus.
Trustees voted in 2008 to add football to the athletic program.