Quick question: What's the youngest stadium in the SEC? If you read the title of this article, you can probably guess the answer: Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium.
On Monday, the Wildcats announced their long-awaited plans to renovate the 40-year old structure. First bullet point: the capacity will drop from 67,942 to 61,000. Consider it a time of the 60-inch HDTV times.
“Most of them are in that 60,000-65,000 (seat) range. There's a reason for that,” Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I think the NFL's pretty smart about what they've done. They've done a really good job of market analysis. … The reality of it is that we're still competing with the fine balance of television. We've got to provide an experience that people want to come, competitively and from a fan-amenity perspective.
“I think this is the right size for us. And if there’s someone else in 15 years that disagrees with what the old guy did, then so be it. But for now, I think this is the right size for Kentucky.”
Kentucky-fying Commonwealth Stadium was a major goal for Barnhart, and he believes the renovations will provide a more intimate, college-like atmosphere. "We want it to feel like Kentucky, look like Kentucky," Barnhart said.
Among the other highlights:
- The south end zone will be completely reconfigured. On the outside of the playing surface, UK will build a new game day locker room and coaches' area, plus a recruiting/multipurpose room that will oversee the field. The players will now enter through a tunnel in the center of the end zone, instead of the corner.
- A completely new press box, 20 new suites and added club space at the mezzanine and field levels. The school will also install between 80 and 85 loges, which Barnhart described as "a cross between a club suite and a seat," and 2,300 new club seats.
- Total expected price tag? $110 million.
- The project should be complete in time for the 2015 season.