“There will be a game.”
That’s what one construction worker told me today during my tour of the massive construction site that was once, and will soon be again, Commonwealth Stadium. Other than that, no promises. There is still a long, long way to go.
Senior associate AD Russ Pear, who is overseeing the renovation, knows that more than anyone. He told us, “If I said there’s not much left to do, you would all think I’m nuts. There is a lot of work to do and the commitment is there to get it done.”
Pear is confident the New CWS will be ready for the first home game in 44 days, but admits it won’t be 100 percent when fans storm through the gates to see the newly renovated stadium for the first time. He likened it to moving into a new house, but needing a little extra work to make it home. That “little extra work” better be minor, or UK will have a disaster on its hands.
Before I go any further, let me tell you I know very little about projects like this, if anything at all. I dressed up like a construction worker during a Village People skit on a cruise ship once, and that’s the extent of my knowledge in the field. I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, either.
With that small caveat in mind, let me say I’m not nearly as confident as Pear. I don’t have the blueprints or the schedule, and I haven’t been on site everyday to witness the progress, but I do have eyeballs. And those eyeballs saw a pretty big mess in every level of the stadium today. I had hoped at least one interior area would be near completion, and that was not the case. I just saw a whole bunch of dirt and unfinished business.
But enough about what I think. Take a walk with me through the New CWS renovation as it stands today and you can form your own opinion.
First and foremost, the most positive aspect of the renovation: the new synthetic field looks incredible. Click on any of the images below for a closer look at the turf and you will agree. From the checkerboard blue end zones to the alternating shades of green in the field of play, it will undoubtedly be one of the best looking fields in college football next season. Money very well spent.
When the team takes the brand new field, it will be coming from a brand new tunnel in the East end zone. The team used to sprint from an entrance in the Northeast corner, but now it will emerge from underneath the new student section and multi-purpose recruiting room.
Here’s a look at the tunnel…
Before sprinting through the tunnel, the team will gather in a new area behind the East end zone. In years past the players would return to the locker room after warming up on the field, but now they will go into a new pre-kickoff room 20-25 minutes before game time. I’m calling it the hype room, and it has a ways to go, as you can see…
Now for my favorite part of the entire renovation: the brand new multi-purpose recruiting room. This area will host recruits and their families on game days in a prime spot in the East end zone. The interior isn’t ready, but the patio is awesome.
(Oscar Combs is not a recruit.)
The main concourse is where I began to worry about completion. My first thought was “not a chance in hell,” but others seem optimistic. I’ll let you be the judge…
Some concrete flooring would make me feel better.
Hey, can we get this ladder out of here?
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On to the South sideline, where the new Field Level, Mezzanine Level and Loge Club areas will be a hit with the big spenders. Here’s a look at the Mezzanine Level interior and deck…
If you’re the proud owner of a suite, check out how your spot looks as of today…
I’m sure you were hoping for something a little more suite-like. Good luck?
This was written on some dry wall…
And now for the press box, the area none of you care about. It was moved to the top of the stadium to make room for the Loge Club.
That’s a pretty cool shot of the entire stadium from the press view. Click that one.
Overall, it’s going to be a stressful 44 days for all parties involved. It will take a buzzer-beater to be completely ready for the opener. Can it be done? Russ Pear has convinced himself it will. Me, I have my doubts. I guess we’ll find out on September 5.