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The Evolution of Kentucky Football Facilities


This week marks my two-year anniversary as a Kentucky Sports Radio blogger. It’s been a blast. Full disclosure, I also work for the UK Sports Network which is a part of JMI Sports. UK, JMI, and Kroger came to terms to rename the home of the football Cats to Kroger Field. By now many have declared their position on the matter; both for and against. I was given the freedom to speak my mind with no restrictions when reacting to and discussing Monday’s announcement. Here’s my take:

First, I’ll provide some background. UK Football has trained at three facilities in my lifetime: Shively Center, E.J. Nutter Center, and the Joe Craft Football Training Facility. Many moons ago my freshman class moved into the Shively Center upon reporting to campus. The accommodations were modest but it was home. Summer workouts at the old training facility were hot. Weights were moved onto the astro-turf for lifting and space purposes.

Team meals were served in Donovan Hall which is now the new location of the science building in which UK Athletics donated money for construction. Coaches and players had to walk across the street to the Biology Building for team meetings because Shively didn’t have space to fit the entire gathering. We soon moved into the palatial E.J. Nutter Center with AC in the weight room, spacious lockers, and adequate team meeting space. Major upgrades. Progress.

The Cats now call the Joe Craft Football Training Center home where players are provided the most modern amenities imaginable. That building came at a price. We’ll get to that later. Smoothies can be ordered by text after players leave the center’s in-house barber shop. Coming full circle, corporate partnerships were a vital piece of the equation that provided UK Athletics with its shiny new toys. Thus, Kroger Field.


Tradition is a subject that can justifiably raise emotion within a fan base. In my lifetime, UK has played its games at two stadiums: Stoll Field and Commonwealth Stadium. The program’s two best teams played in different locations. Bear’s teams at Stoll Field, Derrick Ramsey’s crew at Commonwealth Stadium. While I’m a traditionalist at heart, the modernization of facilities and improvements for students and student-athletes are far more important.

Remember, recruiting is the lifeblood of all programs. Antiquated facilities can be a deal breaker. Can you imagine Vince Marrow hosting recruits while players pumped iron in the parking lot? Or maybe have recruiting dinners like the old days that can be seen in the below picture.

The old Kentucky football recruiting room corner.

The old Kentucky football recruiting room corner.

Several non-football incentives also comprise the JMI-Kroger association as the agreement entails much more than just a name on a stadium. Remember the monetary donation to the new science building? Select community fields throughout the state will receive funds for upgrades. Other features include campus initiatives, pharmacy, nutrition, and health conscience activities which are all tied to naming rights.

I’ve tried to sustain my stance that media types should never tell fans how to fan. Fandom is personal in nature. I don’t like to be told how to be a fan either. So, I won’t try to persuade others to go along with my thoughts about Kroger Field nor will I denounce detractors. I will try to understand the opinions of those that support and criticize Monday’s proclamation. Varying sentiments are ok. I have mine, you have yours. We don’t have to agree.

I’m excited about the baseball team’s success and pending new stadium. Will be quite the improvement from the Cliff. Softball now plays at John Cropp Stadium. UK’s track and field teams host meets on enhanced grounds. I’m happy that today’s football players can train in one of the most extraordinary and lavish facilities in all of college football. The stadium looks great after all the improvements and additions. Again, progress has an associated price tag. Money was paid upfront. See below.

“UK’s multimedia rights agreement with JMI Sports — signed in June 2014 — grants naming rights to athletic facilities and expanded opportunities to market campus media rights like those included in this partnership with Kroger. The multimedia rights agreement pays UK Athletics $210 million over 15 years, including a signing bonus of $29.4 million built in to help fund important capital projects like the baseball stadium currently under construction.”

Thus, I’m perfectly fine with Kroger Field. No, I like Kroger Field.

In the end, the scoreboard is the only signage at Kroger Field that really matters.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

13 Comments for The Evolution of Kentucky Football Facilities

  1. BTownUKFan
    9:56 pm May 1, 2017 Permalink

    Will they bring back the old slogan: “Let’s go krogering”?

  2. 8generationsblue
    10:01 pm May 1, 2017 Permalink

    Don’t like it. Commonwealth was a name that represented the whole state.

    • KYcats11
      11:07 pm May 1, 2017 Permalink


    • Sentient Third Eye
      8:44 am May 2, 2017 Permalink

      Look at it’s this way: it’s still really Commonwealth. Kroger is just paying for us to pretend it’s called something else for a while. When the deal ends, it will be Commonwealth again (or whichever company wants to pay us next time).

  3. rem392
    10:10 pm May 1, 2017 Permalink

    JMI paid UK millions of dollars and part of the deal was that they got the naming rights for CWS. That is reality today. Look on the bright side, the Pittsburg Steelers play at Heinz Field-named for a bottle of ketchup. At least we are named after an entire grocery store! I’m with Freddie. I like it.

    • RackEmWillie
      10:52 am May 2, 2017 Permalink

      Wasn’t that more of thing of the Heinz family and less about the Heinz company?

  4. chris43
    11:07 pm May 1, 2017 Permalink

    Hmmm….I guess they can’t get smoothies, hair cuts, or AC in the weight room at Death Valley or Bryant Denny Stadium….but something is telling those facilities have all of this and more PLUS their “name”. 😉

    • ClutchCargo
      9:05 am May 2, 2017 Permalink

      The money to pay for that stuff has to come from somewhere. UK’s fan base clearly wasn’t getting it done for football or there would be no reason for the Kroger deal.

  5. katmandue2you
    11:18 pm May 1, 2017 Permalink

    Freddie, the point is they could have gone for the “win-win”. And they didnt. Any marketing numbskull at Kroger, JMI, or UK knew damn good and well that this would go over like a turd in a punch bowl. The great majority of this entire state buys their meals at freaking Kroger. I love Kroger as a product. But is Kroger gonna try and tell me that by naming this facility Kroger Field that they stand to increase revenues or even brand recognition substaintially over naming the facility an inclusive name that includes the long standing traditional name that your damn customer base reveres and holds dear? I dont buy it for a second. The Kroger Commonwealth Stadium, Kroger Field at Commonwealth Stadium or hell, even the Commonwealth Kroger Stadium would have given a much more palatable (pun intended) alternative. Kroger has this states grocery business. Has and will. So why go and piss off your customer base? I guess i just answered….cause either way Kentuckians are gonna go Krogering. But I say this was the dumbest move I’ve seen supposedly bright and capable people make. These are two (actually 3) monopolies getting together and doing what they want. Kroger is a monopoly in this market and of course so is UK. Monopolies don’t have to worry much about what the customers think. The only thing i like about this is how even the players are making fun of it. I’m pissed…i just need to shut up.

    • katmandue2you
      12:08 am May 2, 2017 Permalink

      And btw…not to toot my own horn, but…. 59 year old 1980 graduate of UK Business College w/ Marketing Concentration and 30 plus year season ticket holder. Therefore I’ve paid for my right to be unhappy with this many times over. I just dont see the advantage in this for Kroger or UK or JMI….much less the least thought of…the fans.

  6. chris43
    11:49 pm May 1, 2017 Permalink

    Kroger Field…..where ole dad can watch some football while momma does her grocery shopping! Kroger Field?!?!? Are you kidding me?!? COME ON MAN! 😆😆😂😭😂

  7. runningunnin.454
    8:13 am May 2, 2017 Permalink

    The players are laughing at it….can’t blame them.

  8. RackEmWillie
    10:56 am May 2, 2017 Permalink

    I know it doesn’t actually make a difference, but I’ll always refer to it as Commonwealth Stadium.