With the fall collegiate sports season in full swing, stadiums across the country are packed with fans – students, parents, and alumni – cheering for a home team win.
With so much on the line – from pride in alma mater to TV contracts and alumni donations – making sure nothing upends that mix is critical. In that context, upgrading stadiums to better serve fans and players can often take a back seat to the season game schedule. But sometimes, it’s the best option, and for a number of reasons.
The right design can make the decision to build during the season an easy one. Such was the case for our renovation and expansion of Commonwealth Stadium at the University of Kentucky. The design included a new ring of concession stands, public restrooms and other stadium operations outside the existing ring at the lower and upper concourse. This allowed for construction to occur outside the stadium before and during the season.
Technology helped immensely, with 2-D and 3-D surveys – including 3-D laser scanning – which identified obstructions that could have conflicted with the proposed design. And while most active construction did not occur on game days, communication about what to expect when coming to the game was critical. Our project team participated in every game day logistics planning meeting to make sure the stadium operations staff understood areas under construction and our staff helped support the event by providing necessary temporary facilities.
During our first year on the project, we had seven home football games amidst the construction to plan around. One of the most important priorities was to get the TV broadcast compound completed in time for the first season so the SEC Network could utilize the new power and distribution system.
Also critical was prioritizing all premium seating and corresponding amenities. The proposed design of the stadium renovation involved an overall reduction of the stadium seating capacity, moving the student section and many long time season ticket holders. We also demolished the center sections of the stadium lower bowl in order to construct outdoor patio decks over premium club spaces below, re-configured the floor slabs in the old press box, and built new structured decks for the loge seating area.
We created the Coaches Club, Loft Club and Loge Lounge, each of which leveraged sight lines (or lack thereof) with food and beverage and seating options to create a unique fan experience. Rising above the seating bowl are the upper two stories of the new suite/press tower, which includes the Founders Suite on the 50-yard line, UK athletic director suite and visiting team athletic director suite, with outdoor terraces at each end of this level serving as additional hospitality areas. The second level includes all press and broadcast functions, additional suites and home and visitor coaches’ booths. Capping off the suite/press tower are two camera platforms located on the roof.
In addition to the premium amenities, UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart wanted the player game day experience to be top notch. The east end zone seating was dismantled and rebuilt so a new game day locker room could be built at the field level. The space is supported by coaches’ lockers, training room, equipment room, and media interview room. Above the locker room is the recruiting lounge where, on every game day, future Wildcat Football Players are hosted to banquet-style dining, video walls of highlight reel action of UK greats and access to an in-stadium terrace located next to the marching band and above the student seating section over the home team tunnel to the field.
Doing in-season stadium renovations means balancing sports with construction progress. However, by taking the necessary planning and safety precautions, both in advance and during the game, the project can stay on track and loyal fans can still enjoy cheering their teams on to victory.