Despite glitches, expansion support among'sea of red'
The Labor Day football season opener against Cincinnati yesterday gave the University a chance to show off all the new additions to Rutgers Stadium now that construction is almost complete.
The additional of nearly 12,000 new seats and other amenities cost a total of $102 million, nearly all of which comes from borrowed funds.
"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," said Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning Antonio Calcado.
University alumnus Scott Sugarman said he thinks the stadium renovations were absolutely worth the money spent.
"It's great to see; compared to when I was in school, there was 10,000 people and now you've got 55,000 and a high definition board," he said. "It's amazing compared to where we were."
The south end zone now includes 11,412 new seats, a 38-by-114 foot scoreboard, sound system, restrooms and concession stands. While the new entrance is not complete, it is functional, and the student section and the University band have both been moved to the south end zone.
Many students and alumni were pleased with the new facilities, but some students said they had trouble hearing the band.
"The band wasn't loud enough, so it was a big problem," said School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Munir Harb.
Although University alumnus Kevin Langan said he thinks the stadium is not worth the funds spent considering yesterday's loss to Cincinnati, he thinks it looked good.
"I would say it was very efficient and functional as well," Langan said. "You could walk around the whole stadium … you used to have to horseshoe [around the stadium]."
Jan Tagaan, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said he arrived to the game late and had trouble finding seating, but other than that was satisfied with the expansion.
"I thought everything looked fine, [especially] the area with all the shops and the bathrooms, and it was very convenient for the students; I liked that a lot," he said.
Unlike Tagaan, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy junior Teresa Cicci said she arrived at the stadium close to the start of the game and had no problem getting in and finding seats.
"I thought it was a lot easier to maneuver around the area," she said. "The line was a lot quicker, and it felt like the area in general that was designated for students was larger."
But Cicci said one of the problems she encountered at the game was that the large scoreboard was behind the student section so she could not easily see it, even though a smaller one was across the field and visible to students.
The announcers were clear, but because of the way the band and dance team were facing, she couldn't really hear the field show, Cicci said.
University alumna Suzanne Sicora-Ludwig tailgated outside the game with her homemade tin Scarlet Knight in tow.
"I'm glad [they expanded the stadium] because it brings more people in and the college students are getting more involved, so they're all there with the sea of red," she said. "It was just phenomenal."
Sicora-Ludwig said the new stadium looks great but was concerned that the cannon was moved and difficult to hear.
"They moved it, but we didn't even hear it today; when they scored, we definitely wanted the cannon," Sicora-Ludwig said. "That's always one of the best parts [of the game]."
The near-completion of the stadium comes almost two years after the controversial introduction and approval by the University Board of Governors.
The first phase of the stadium construction included 1,000 seats and a club lounge, which opened up at the start of last year's football season, said Director of Public Relations for University Media Relations E.J. Miranda.
Some students think the money for the stadium could have gone to other areas of the University.
"[The stadium] was good; I just think the money probably could've gone toward other things like academics or building new [residence halls] because we're stuck in the hotel so we're feeling the pain of that," Cicci said.
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."