UK FOOTBALL | Commonwealth Stadium unfinished, but ready, for Saturday's season opener
09/03/2015 10:55 AM
LEXINGTON — Just three days before the University of Kentucky is scheduled to unveil a sparking new Commonwealth Stadium for its season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, a lot of work is still left to be completed.
UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart joined other university and city officials on Wednesday to assure fans that even though the entire $120 million renovation won’t be finished before Saturday’s 7:00 PM ET kickoff, the stadium will still be “done enough” for the Wildcats and Ragin’ Cajuns to take the field.
“There will be a lot of man hours the next 72 hours — or less now — to get us to kickoff on Saturday night,” Barnhart told media members during Wednesday’s press conference. “But the vast majority of our fans will experience a finished stadium in just a few days.”
The priority for Week 1 was to get all the team areas prepared — including the new playing field, locker rooms, recruiting room, and essentials for game day operations (scoreboard, play clocks, instant-replay, and medical equipment) — as well as fan essentials such as stadium seating, bathrooms, and concessions.
“Those were the essentials,” Barnhart said. “We wanted to make sure that the things that we tended to were things that are essential to Game 1. Anything that can wait — about meetings or functions later on — can wait.
“The goal was to get the team in and get the fans in their seats to let them have an experience of watching the game.”
And to help get everything ready, other members of UK’s athletics department, coaches, and even players have donated time at the stadium.
“Most of the time, you wouldn’t see that at a lot of schools,” Barnhart said. “Our folks have come. Our staff response, our students’ response to help out [has been] off-the-charts good. Their work ethic [is] tremendous.”
* Amenities Updates *
- Parking: Despite losing more than 2,000 parking spaces around Commonwealth Stadium to other construction projects since 2013, Barnhart said UK has “worked hard to minimize the impact of parking.” He stated that UK offers 11,600 stalls — almost 20% of the stadium’s capacity. Barnhart also added that Kentucky is the only SEC school the university surveyed that offers free single-game parking for fans.
- WiFi: Free wireless internet for fans was not part of the recent renovation. Barnhart did note that both AT&T and Verizon have increased cellular signals and data systems “that should give everybody the ability to communicate within the stadium” and that WiFi is “something that will come” later.
- Chair Seating: Though some chair-back seating has been added, much of the stadium still uses bleachers. Barnhart said the long-term plan is to supply the entire stadium with blue chair-back or bleacher-back seats within the next year or two.