Stadium to finally see opening day
When University affiliates and community members walk to the Rutgers Stadium entrance Sept. 7 for the opening game against Cincinnati, construction equipment will be nowhere in sight.
As scheduled, the stadium expansion will be complete nearly two years after the controversial introduction and approval by the University Board of Governors. The project includes 14,000 new seats among other amenities at a cost of $102 million — nearly all of which will come through bonds.
"The iron is being put up, the concrete is being poured [and] you will actually see it start to make the connections and start to look like a stadium. Everyday, it just comes up a little more," said Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning Antonio Calcado.
The stadium will not be entirely complete on the interior, Calcado said.
"While we will open for the [first] game, there's still going to be some [construction] going on around [the stadium], probably taking us to basically the end of the year in finishing up things we need to do," Calcado said.
The first phase of the project, which included 1,000 seats and a club lounge, was complete for the 2008 football season, said Director of Public Relations for University Media Relations E.J. Miranda. The second phase, underway now, will include 13,000 seats behind the south end zone.
But this expansion did not come easily to the University, as students and faculty members raised concerns before its approval by the Board of Governors in early 2008, with concerns ranging from other University areas requiring renovations to transportation issues.
In a letter to the University community in early 2008, University President Richard L. McCormick said the project would not divert any funds away from academic programs, faculty and staff salaries or student services.
"Over time, in fact, additional revenue from the expanded stadium will allow us to reduce the current subsidy of athletics and invest more University funds in academics, student life and other priorities," McCormick said in the letter. "Why aren't we spending $102 million on fixing classrooms, restoring class sections, and hiring faculty instead? The fact is that we don't — and won't — have this money unless we add the stadium seating to generate it."
To address foreseeable traffic concerns this fall, University Transportation Services has been working in conjunction with Facilities and Capital Planning and the Department of Athletics.
"Last season, we hired consultants to do traffic analysis [and] traffic counts, and we've been working on that study," Director of Transportation Services Jack Molenaar said. "We've all been looking at where we can park now, where we can park in the future, where there are opportunities to go, and we're pretty close to finalizing that."
Last season, a consultants from Rummel, Klepper and Kahl in Baltimore and another from Martin Alexiou Bryson in North Carolina teamed together to observe traffic patterns at the first game against Fresno State and documented massive amounts of traffic counts at the North Carolina game, he said.
The North Carolina game was chosen because it was a Thursday night — the worst-case scenario for the University, Molenaar said.
"From a traffic standpoint, you always want to look at the worst case and then hope for the best," Molenaar said. "Saturdays are a lot easier to deal with; classes aren't in session, you don't have the p.m. rush hour to deal with [and] car occupancy rates are higher because lots of times on a Thursday night game people are coming in individually by themselves from work."
Molenaar said the goal is to make sure there is an academic calendar on a Thursday night when a game is scheduled.
"It's not called shutting down Busch; it's called having both, and how do you do it in a way that's responsible," he said.
All transportation costs for football games are funded by the Department of Athletics, including any additional buses needed this fall with any increased attendance, Molenaar said.
"It's going to be a little bit of a learning curve the first few games but the good thing is the first Thursday night game is not until November so we have a couple of games," Molenaar said. "You tweak it as you go along. We have a good idea of what we need to do already."