September 5, 2013 | 2 Comments
BUIES CREEK — Last year, it was the new lights. This year, it’s all about atmosphere.
When Campbell University’s football team takes the field for its home opener Saturday night, it’ll do so in a completely overhauled Barker-Lane Stadium. Gone are the temporary stands and press box that stood for the program’s first five seasons, and in its place are 25 rows and 3,000-plus additional seats and a two-story press box that houses a presidential suite level.
The additions double the stadiums permanent seating capacity to about 5,200, and the athletics program hopes they add more excitement for not only the fans, but the players as well.
“From our student-athletes and coaches point of view, this is such a tremendous source of pride,” said Campbell Athletic Director Bob Roller. “Barker-Lane Stadium will now be at or near the top of all Pioneer Football League stadiums and many FCS stadiums. We are so grateful to the generous support of Campbell alums and fans who have made this possible.”
Saturday’s game against Virginia Wise (kickoff is 6 p.m.) will also mark the home debut of new football coach and former Carolina Panther defensive back Mike Minter. Minter’s squad helped open another new stadium last week, losing to future FBS and Conference USA member UNC Charlotte 52-7. Minter said his team is excited to play in its revamped home.
“Especially after last Saturday,” Minter said on his weekly online show. “You want to get that out of your mind and memory, and this week should be extra special for us. We’re playing in a new stadium in front of an excited crowd ready to watch some good football. It’s Saturday night, it’s under the lights … it’ll be a special feeling.”
While the additions have been part of the plan for the stadium since the stadium’s birth, construction on the new home side didn’t begin in earnest until June of this year. Since then, construction crews from T.A. Loving (which also built Campbell’s new School of Osteopathic Medicine) have been working 24 hours a day almost every day to meet the deadline for the home opener this week.
According to Jim Roberts, vice president for business at Campbell University, the new 3,000-seat grandstand is not only aesthetically pleasing, it’ll make the entire experience a better one for Campbell fans.
“First and foremost, the stands are east-facing, so we’re no longer staring into the sun for mid- to late-afternoon games,” Roberts said. “Of the 3,000-plus new seats, 800 to 850 of them are chair-back seats, and even the bleachers will have seat backs [those will be added in time for Campbell’s second home game].”
Roberts said the new grandstand was built with the football fan in mind. Added legroom means fans won’t always have to stand up to let somebody walk by. The bleachers are twice as steep as the visitor’s and student seating side, meaning views won’t be obstructed when a taller fan sits in the row ahead. And the first row is a good six feet off the ground, which means even those fans will be able to see over the heads of the players on the sidelines.
“It’s the way football was meant to be seen,” Roberts said. “We don’t have a track around our field like some stadiums, so we were able to build this in such a way that our fans — no matter how far up they’re sitting — are close to the field. I’m biased, but I think the seats are just better here. I’ve been to other college football stadiums [in North Carolina], and the view from our seats beats them all.”
Below the grandstands are new concession stands and restroom facilities (the women’s facilities are twice as large as the men’s). There’s also elevator access to the two-story Carlie C’s Hometown Proud Press Tower, which will include air-conditioned presidential suites for groups of about 12-16 who want to watch the game in extra comfort.
While the additions are the culmination of the complete stadium Campbell envisioned when it restarted its football program after a 50-plus-year absence in 2008, they don’t
necessarily mark the end of all additions to Barker-Lane. Roberts said the design leaves open the possibility of an additional 4,000 seats if they choose to extend the grandstands on each side. If demand calls for it, Barker-Lane could one day house up to 10,000 fans.
"This additions to Barker-Lane Stadium are truly transformational for not only our football program, but the entire University,” said Roller. “It sends a great statement to everyone traveling in front of campus year-round.”
By Billy Liggett, assistant director for publications
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