SBD/November 26, 2013/Facilities

Univ. Of Kentucky Unveils $110M Football Stadium Renovations, Downsizing By 6,000

Kentucky's stadium renovations would focus on improving premium seating
The Univ. of Kentucky yesterday unveiled plans for $110M in renovations to Commonwealth Stadium, the 40-year-old venue's "first major upgrade since expansion in 1999," according to a front-page piece by Jennifer Smith of the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER. Construction will begin "after this season ends and is projected to be complete in time" for the start of the '15 season. The renovations will see a "reduced capacity from 67,000 to 61,000." School officials said that the goal is to "create better seats, not more seats." UK AD Mitch Barnhart said he hopes the renovations will "change the personality of the stadium, that it's hopefully more intimate, hopefully, it is more fan friendly." Barnhart: "We've got to create an environment that's fun for people to want to come. And I think this is the right size for us." Smith notes the south side of the stadium will be "dramatically different in scope and size, with a press box at the highest level atop another level of 28 suites, then club seating and the loge level of VIP seating." The loge level will be a "cross between a club seat and a suite with seating for four or six (depending on space) where fans can order food to their seats, which will be possible using multimedia devices on which they can also pull up statistics, updates from other games and replays." Below that will be a "mezzanine-level club area and a field-level club area." There will be "roughly 2,300 seats at the club levels," and patrons in all of the new premium areas within the stadium will be "able to purchase alcoholic beverages." The $110M upgrades budget was originally meant to "cover the stadium and facilities upgrades at the Nutter Training Facility." But Barnhardt said it will now "go into the stadium only" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 11/26).

GOING WITH THE TREND: In Lexington, Mark Story writes spending $110M to "downsize one's stadium is not as counter-intuitive as it sounds." There have been "vast expanses of open seats in stadiums belonging to football programs far more successful than Kentucky." The trend in football venues is "smaller overall capacity with more 'high-end' seating designed to produce revenue streams," and the new Commonwealth Stadium will "epitomize that philosophy." It also "sounds like a good bit of the overall reduction in Commonwealth seating capacity will come out of the student ticket allotment." The UK student section in recent years has "often been half-filled at best." One "big improvement for fans all around Commonwealth would be if the bleacher seating in much of the stadium could be removed in favor of chair backs" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 11/26).
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