UK stadium repairs remain on schedule

Published 2:24 am Thursday, July 23, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky senior associate athletic director Russ Pear remains confident that Commonwealth Stadium will be ready for the Wildcats’ Sept. 5 season opener despite being “stressed about things” because of this month’s heavy rains.

Many things have already been completed to Kentucky’s home field that might have fans doing a double take when the Wildcats host Louisiana Lafayette in 44 days. Old steel girders have been fitted with a facade of the commonwealth’s trademark limestone, field turf has replaced the grass surface and Wildcats prospects can watch the action from an observation deck of the new recruiting lounge in the east end zone.

Some finishing touches remain on the $120 million facelift that began in December 2013. Athletics is funding the project.

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Currently, it’s a race against time after winter snow and summer rains hampered construction.

“We’ve got so many people doing their jobs and that’s all we’re asking,” Pear said Wednesday during a media tour of the facility. “The contractors are committed, the university folks are committed, our staff and we are ready. We need to do the little things to make the house a home and that’s our goal.”

Things have been full steam ahead as a result at Commonwealth, which moved the press box to the upper level and has added spacious luxury boxes along with new concourses, concession stands and restrooms.

The team’s upgrades include new locker rooms, training and recruiting rooms, the latter of which gives recruits and their players a place to mingle before games.

The lower-level bleachers at midfield have been painted blue, while both endzones have the words “Kentucky” inscribed with the school logo at midfield. Pear said the training room is similar to the one at South Carolina’s Brice-Williams Stadium.

Pear said the installation of field turf was the project’s first “milestone.”

The field “came out much better than we even thought,” he said.

Capacity has been reduced to about 61,000 but field, mezzanine and loge level seating has been added as part of the stadium’s new premium package.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is just as anxious as his players to open a new era in the stadium that opened in 1973. Stoops said the renovation project is in “full gear.”

“Our players, fans, coaches, everybody’s excited and anxious to take that field in basically a brand new stadium,” he said during SEC media days earlier this month.

Stoops also lauded the construction of a new indoor practice facility adjacent to Commonwealth Stadium that’s scheduled for completion next year.

“There’s steel going up each and every day,” he said. “We’re moving forward with that. The completion for that should be set sometime next summer. Those are some very key pieces for us as we move forward. Clearly, there’s progress being made at Kentucky, both in facilities and with our football team.”

Kentucky’s eight-game home schedule includes Florida, Auburn and in-state rival Louisville.