A new home for UD footballOct 07, 2019 02:20PM ● By J. Chambless
Seating upgrades have been made throughout the stadium. (Photo by Mark Campbell)
By Ken Mammarella
Delaware Stadium is,
at long last, becoming a nicer place to watch football.
“There haven’t been any upgrades since the mid-1970s,” Chrissi Rawak, the University of Delaware’s director of athletics and recreation services, said of the stadium, built in 1952. “The condition for our fans and athletes was inadequate. The overall fan experience was not a good one.”
No longer. Renovations include more comfortable seating, what Rawak calls “pretty phenomenal” sightlines, and upgraded restrooms and concessions. A Stadium Club is to open next year.
To keep fans on top of updates and construction, UD posts details on https://bluehens.com/gameday. On game days, multiple guest services kiosks are available four hours before games outside the stadium’s west side; a tent on the east concourse serves as the main guest relations hub, including lost and found; and guest relations representatives roam in and around the stadium to assist fans.
Ground was broken in December 2018 on a $60 million project on the Dave Nelson Athletics Complex in Newark, dominated by renovations to Delaware Stadium and construction of the Whitney Athletic Center, planned to provide academic support and athletic training and well-being facilities for UD’s 600 student-athletes.
Following the completion of fundraising, focus will shift to the Delaware Field House, and seating on the east side and in the end zones of Delaware Stadium.
The stadium used to seat 21,500, but the updates mean the capacity is dropping to 16,730 this year. When the work is done, it’ll be 18,309. The stadium is going from metal benches in select sections to chair-back seats (all seats in the middle three sections – C, D and E) and club seats with cushions and padding – both styles with more leg room, more elbow room and cupholders.
“It’s a win-win,” Newark resident Wayne Hanby, a season ticket holder (Section C, Row Z) since his 1976 UD graduation, said of the comfier seating. He also feels the athletic center will help with recruiting and for student-athletes to develop.
“We’re very happy to see all the improvements,” said Kristin DeGregory, who’s been attending games since she was a child, when her parents were season ticket holders. “We hope they bring back the feeling of a filled stadium, cheering everyone on.”
DeGregory, her husband Joe and their children now buy a family fun pack with seats in the end zone, but she said after seeing all the changes at this season’s opener, “we’re definitely thinking of upgrading.”
Fans with club seats get access to the Stadium Club, an 8,500-square-foot space with a bar, food and more restrooms. “Our fans are really excited to have that,” said Jordan Skolnick, deputy athletic director, comparing the new club to the one at the Bob Carpenter Center in “size, scope and feel.” The club will be used on non-game days by the athletic department, and it can be rented.
Student seating is now in the north end zone area. The band remains in the south end zone, but is moving to the east side for 2019 to allow for smoother transitions from its seating.
The main ticket booths are now on the plaza in front of the Bob. Season ticket prices rose this season because there are seven home games, but “prices go back down in 2020 with a six-game home schedule,” the UD website says. “Sections C, D, E with the new chair backs will see an additional increase in their price due to the upgraded seating. With the club space being unavailable until the 2020 season, the 2019 club seat costs will be discounted 25 percent off the 2020 price.”
The construction closes the west concourse to fans. There are new entrances in the stadium’s southwest and northwest corners. An alley between the stadium and the Bob is a part of the stadium this year, so fans using the southwest gate have tickets scanned before entering the alley. The north and east main stadium entrances remain open. Construction extends into surrounding parking lots as well.
Refreshments continue to be offered in multiple locations, including three temporary stands. A concession stand outside the stadium’s west side and the barbecue smoker tent are not in use this season.
Beer is be available in two locations, with the stand in the stadium’s northwest corner moved to the north end of the east concourse. UD officials are researching an expanded menu for next year.
The work on the stadium’s west side includes large restrooms at both ends, Skolnick said. The permanent restrooms in the east and north concourses remain open. Temporary restrooms are available in concourses behind the north and south end zones.
The west side bookstore is closed this season; the east concourse location remains open.
An enhanced press box will be unveiled next fall atop the athletic center.
The athletic center is named for Ken Whitney (a 1980 UD graduate, a golfer while a student and a member of the board of trustees) and his wife Elizabeth K., who gave $10 million. One section of the 90,000-square-foot center houses the Student Success Center, with space for academic support, career preparation and leadership development.
Another section is the Health & Well-Being Center. It includes a 10,000-square-foot weight room that can accommodate more than 100 students, ending common midday lines.
It also includes “grab-and-go healthy food options,” a kitchen to teach student-athletes healthy cooking techniques, sports psychology areas, hydrotherapy tubs and an X-ray machine.
“All of our peers have something like that on their campuses,” Rawak said of the center, referring to schools in the Colonial Athletic Association, schools in the region and schools that UD recruits against. “We were at a competitive disadvantage.”
“Now, we’re ahead, with a holistic approach offering everything together,” Skolnick said.
“There are a lot of academic components in the center,” Rawak said, such as the dietetic interns who select those healthy food options, and the tubs, also available to UD’s physical therapy clinic. The athletics department is also working with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources UD Creamery just to the north to develop cheese, yogurt and a milk-based replacement fluid.
You mean a BlueHenAde? “It hasn’t been named yet,” Rawak said.
And when everything’s done a year from now, “we’ll celebrate,” she said.