Louisville Courier Journal
Published 2:26 PM EST Jan 13, 2020
The Louisville football fan experience will be changing next season.
New features at Cardinal Stadium will involve tailgating, construction of a fan zone, boosted WiFi access, a seat recoating process and significant parking changes.
Talk about a fan zone has been going on well before Josh Heird, Louisville’s deputy athletic director, arrived in May. Looking around the country, Louisville saw universities such as Texas and Brigham Young University with fan zones and wanted to add to its pregame experience.
"They are starting to pop out and hope to replicate some things that have been done," Heird said.
The area, which will be in the Purple Lot, previously the Green Lot, on the south side of the Central Avenue tunnel, will include a live music stage with a beer garden, food truck options, a miniature turf field and more. Construction will begin this spring. There isn't an estimated finish date, but it is expected to be finished before the 2020 season begins.
The entire project is not expected to exceed $1 million and will be funded by private donations and sponsorships.
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“This is another major step forward in our fan engagement strategy,” athletic director Vince Tyra said in a statement. “The partnership established with Tailgate Guys last season was a great starting point, but this is an investment in every fan, not just those with premium seats, and this will help create more of a tradition around our football program. We’re excited to create this family environment that is missing around our stadium today.”
There will also be parking changes. The addition of the fan zone will take away a small number of parking spaces in the Purple Lot, but more will come with the elimination of the Platinum T Lot.
Due to the addition of a new hotel, Louisville will lose 360 parking spots from its Platinum T Lot, on the southeast corner of Floyd Street and Central Avenue. Now, reserved parking will only be available in the Platinum S and Bronze lots. Season ticket holders who normally park in the Platinum T Lot will be able to choose a new reserved parking spot in March, Heird said.
To clean up traffic, the Purple Lot will turn into a pass-required speed parking option. The first-come, first-serve option is a model that NFL stadiums use and Heird believes it will work well for Louisville. Despite the fan zone being placed in a portion of the Purple Lot, Heird said there are plenty of open spaces.
"We will lose some spots, but we have a number of open spots now so we think we can accommodate everybody,” he said.
Heird said he doesn’t see there being many tailgating issues with the change, either.
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"That’s something fans are probably going to have to sort out on their own,” Heird said. “We looked at NFL stadiums and how they do things and a large majority, if not all, do it this way. Those things have a way to work themselves out. For most instances they will say, 'Hey let’s find a place to meet up, whether it’s a gas station or somewhere close to campus, and drive in together and be in good shape.'”
Louisville is also working with vendors to improve mobile services, both wireless and cellular, at Cardinal Stadium. Heird didn’t promise that wireless service will be added for the 2020 season, but said it could be ready in the next year or two.
"We all know that's an issue," Heird said. "We know that's something that is important to our fans so we will try to fix it. ... We did get board approval to go down that road of potentially putting a WiFi system in. That will take some time."
The recoating process to refurbish approximately 37,800 lower bowl seats in Cardinal Stadium, which started last summer, will resume this spring. A few seats on the east side have been treated, and the rest are expected to be finished this year. The weather faded the seats from their original red color, and an industrial UV protective coating was applied on the existing seats through a special process to restore the color and strengthen the seats.
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Cameron Teague Robinson [email protected]; Twitter: @cj_teague; Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.