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New Kentucky home: CWS designs reveal vision for UK football's future

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An artist's rendering of the outside of the new Commonwealth Stadium, which will open in time for the start of the 2015 season. An artist's rendering of the outside of a renovated Commonwealth Stadium, which will open in time for the start of the 2015 season.
Visit www.TheNewCWS.com for complete information on Commonwealth Stadium renovations.

He had long worked toward a renovation of Commonwealth Stadium, but as it became closer to reality, Mitch Barnhart began to sort out exactly what he wanted to accomplish through the project.

His priorities were clear. Above all else, Barnhart wanted the transformation of Commonwealth to serve three groups: fans, current Wildcats and future Wildcats.

With plans now set, Barnhart believes that mission will be accomplished.

"I think we've changed the personality of the stadium," Barnhart said. "It is hopefully more intimate, hopefully it is more fan-friendly, and at the end of the day it provides our program with things we need for recruiting and people that want to come and participate in a great league and a great facility."

With construction set to start in December, designs for the new Commonwealth Stadium were revealed in front of hundreds of season-ticket holders and media at the Nutter Field House on Monday. Gerardo Prado -- the principal architect for HNTB, UK's partner in the project -- walked attendees through a presentation detailing the highlights of the renovation that started by showing a view of the East end zone.

A new multipurpose recruiting room will be located in the East end zone. A new multipurpose recruiting room will be located in the East end zone.
There, a new multipurpose recruiting room space for 200 will be surrounded by the UK student section which will feature between 4,000 and 5,000 lower-level seats. The recruiting room will feature a patio overlooking the field with a new centrally located tunnel through which players will take the field directly below it.

"I want to fast-forward and get to that look right now," Stoops said after seeing renderings of the new stadium. "That's beautiful."

Senior linebacker Avery Williamson represented his team at the ceremony. Like everyone else in attendance, he was impressed by what he saw. In fact, his only regret was not getting the chance to play in the new Commonwealth himself.

"I'll bleed blue until the day that I die," Williamson said. "I love this school and I love this community and I love the fans and I feel like it's really going to be a turnaround. I just can't wait for the future of Kentucky, and ready to go beat Tennessee this weekend."

Adding to an already exciting day, Stoops announced the signing of five talented members of UK's 2014 class. Quarterback Drew Barker (Burlington, Ky.), linebacker Dorian Hendrix (Huber Heights, Ohio), running back Mikel Horton (West Chester, Ohio), wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass (Springfield, Ohio) and wide receiver T.V. Williams (McKinney, Texas) have signed scholarship papers, laying the foundation for what many expect to be the highest-ranked recruiting class in school history.

"This is a great start to our 2014 recruiting class," Stoops said. "They will benefit from enrolling in January. Going through our winter conditioning program and spring practice will give them a much greater ability to compete for playing time next season. In addition to being outstanding players, their academic commitment is shown by graduating high school in three-and-a-half years."

Barnhart and Stoops were joined at the unveiling by UK President Eli Capilouto; Senate President Robert Stivers; House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly; Dr. C.B. Akins, member of the UK Board of Trustees and Chair of the University Athletics Committee; and Gov. Steve Beshear, who signed the legislation approving the $110-million project in February.

"This stadium upgrade will ensure the continued financial success of UK football -- an integral part to a truly self-sustaining athletics program that also funds millions of dollars to the university's academic programming," Gov. Beshear said. "I am proud to have supported the agency bond legislation that is making this renovation possible and I congratulate UK's officials and leaders for taking this visionary action."

The renovation -- a result of an unprecedented partnership between UK Athletics and the university it represents -- will decrease the capacity of Commonwealth from 67,606 to approximately 61,000 when construction is completed in time for the 2015 season. That was no accident.

"We have got to provide an experience that people want to come, competitively and from a fan amenity perspective," Barnhart said. "And then we've got to create an environment that's fun for people to want to come. And I think that this is the right size for us."

Not only does Barnhart believe it to be the right size, he also thinks it has the right look.

"Now, as I'm looking at this picture, my first thought is, 'Pretty cool. Pretty cool,' " Barnhart said. "Then we can walk in and it has a different feel to it on the inside. I just wanted from start to finish, as you begin the process of coming into this stadium and you see it from the road or you see it for the first time, that it's a different-feeling stadium and it's something that is classy and can span the test of time a little bit, and I think it is."

UK launched a website (www.TheNewCWS.com) featuring the designs of the new stadium and pertinent information regarding tickets and the history of the project. It will be updated regularly throughout the course of the renovation.

The revamped exterior of the stadium will take on a uniquely Kentucky feel with Kentucky limestone and reclaimed barn wood. Inside, concourses will be widened and modernized, while new concession stands and restrooms will also be built, improving the game-day experience for every fan.

A view from inside the new loge-level club seating area. A view from inside the new loge-level club seating area.
Playing a central role in both the renovation and its funding will be premium-seating areas constructed during the renovation. Approximately 2,300 club seats will be added at the loge, mezzanine and field levels along the South sideline, allowing fans to enjoy UK football in style. Also, approximately 20 sellable sideline luxury suites will be added below the newly constructed press box, bringing Commonwealth's total seat count to approximately 61,000.

The amenities available in premium seating areas are not yet finalized, but they will include separate restrooms and covered concession areas.

These new premium seating areas, as well as the multipurpose recruiting room, will be rentable spaces at the conclusion of the 2015 season. The field-level club area will also house a new training table where football student-athletes will eat many of their meals. Other player-centric upgrades include a special game-day locker room and state-of-the-art training room.

When UK was granted bonding authority for the $110-million football project in February, plans initially included upgrades to the Nutter Training Facility, which houses football offices and day-to-day practice facilities. After seeing everything that could be done for players at Commonwealth, the decision was made to spend all of those funds on the stadium.

"We are absolutely committed to getting this program to the spot where we can all enjoy some very special moments," Barnhart said. "We're resolute in that. I am absolutely not backing down from the fact that we can compete at the highest level in this league. I want to get to Atlanta (for the SEC Championship) and that's the goal, make no mistake about it.

"The transformation of Commonwealth Stadium is the first step in that process, but it's not our last. We have more plans that we are still working on, but today is a celebration of our new home."

Construction on that new home will begin shortly after UK's season finale vs. Tennessee on Saturday. Crews will work through the start of the 2014 season to prepare the site and take steel deliveries, and the Cats will play next season in Commonwealth with construction ongoing.

The majority of fans will be unaffected, save for approximately 2,000 seats in the South upper level. Rows 22-39 in sections 219-232 will be unavailable in 2014. UK Athletics staff will contact affected season-ticket holders personally in December to provide a variety of alternative seating options for next season.

UK will conclude its 2014 home schedule on Nov. 8 of next year, more than three weeks earlier than this season's finale, which will provide important extra time ahead of the 2015 season opener.

"We're very fortunate in that respect," Barnhart said. "It gives those guys a chance to really jump in there and get going on that."

Ticket information for the 2015 season is still being finalized and will be announced in the first quarter of 2014.While significant premium seating is being added through the renovation, approximately 25,000 seats will be available at the current $100 K Fund annual donation level or lower.

"What I can tell you now is that the process will be fair, equitable and transparent," Barnhart said. "We will work closely with each fan to help them choose the right seats."

Barnhart encouraged fans to put themselves in the best possible position for 2015 tickets by purchasing 2014 season tickets when renewals are sent in January.

As curious as fans may be to learn details about ticketing, Monday was primarily about the overarching vision for the future of Commonwealth Stadium and the Kentucky football program. Too much work by too many people -- from UK Athletics to the university to the Big Blue Nation -- for it to be anything other than a celebration.

"When the Wildcats take the field and you fill the stands for our eight home games -- I repeat, eight home games -- in 2015, you will be proud of the new home we have created together for Kentucky football," Barnhart said.

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2 Comments

Hey! Could not find the web site. and OBTW CWS is a well know acronym for "College World Series" which also has a new stadium. I would fix the by-line before there is too much confusion or frustration finding the site. And, I would make the site easy to post to social media like Facebook, etc. GO CATS. Hal.

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  • Guy Ramsey: The website is www.TheNewCWS.com. read more
  • harley: Hey! Could not find the web site. and OBTW CWS is a well know acronym for "College World Series" which read more