Delaware Stadium is undergoing a long, long, long overdue makeover and with that comes some inconveniences for new and “old” fans.
Some fans’ parking spaces are either temporarily or permanently moved, while others now sit on broken up gravel instead of grass. Underneath the west stands is literally a construction zone, as is what used to be the primary entrance into the stadium.
The student section is now in the north end zone, the smaller of the two, which puts it closer to the “Barn” area designated for students to gather prior to kickoff. It’s a move that also creates more seats in the south end zone, where families can better afford to come see the Hens play.
It’s a good strategy. Let’s face it, while the north end zone was packed for the opening game, history tells us the student section becomes emptier and emptier as the season goes on. So, I like the move to create more affordable seating for fans who will show up for the experience into November. And who knows, maybe those same youngsters watching in awe at an impressionable age will become season-ticket holders as adults.
The “look” inside the stadium, although not 100 percent completed, is impressive. While still not at the level of James Madison and other completely new or renovated stadiums, as I sat on the west side in the second half I could almost visualize what the west side will eventually look like when all is said and done. I do, however, question why they didn’t just install the new chairs with backs in the entire west stands, and instead basically left the upper right- and left-hand corners with traditional bench seating. It looks odd, and while one might argue cost, I can’t imagine a few more dollars couldn’t have been raised to “finish the job.”
The unexpected delays in construction forced the Hens to build two temporary press boxes on the East side, complete with no bathrooms and limited seating. More importantly, it basically eliminated the chance of any television crews heading to Newark and therefore all remaining home games are set for the more UD-traditional 1 p.m. time slots. This is a welcome move to longtime fans who revel in gathering for breakfast, heading in for kickoff and returning for a post-game beverage while it’s still light out. Some traditions never wane.
The opening game against Delaware State was nearly a full house, due in large part to several thousand eliminated seats caused by a combination of wider new ones, the layout of the updated design, and the construction of the two temporary press boxes. UD did a nice job making sure that the lines in the bathrooms weren’t much longer than usual, concession stand and beer tent wait times were about what you’d expect with a big crowd, and the flow of crowd movement wasn’t overly impacted by the fact that literally more than a quarter of normal pedestrian space was off limits.
The mood of the fans of all ages seemed to be good. Perfect weather, a win, and the fact that for many it was the start of a four-day weekend certainly helped.
But the bottom line is, although it’s not the Delaware Stadium we once knew, the good news is that it will never be again.
Change is often good, but it doesn’t happen overnight. For UD fans, this is a year of wait and see. And not just for the product on the field, but for the eventual outcome of the new digs surrounding it.
Patience is a virtue, and a welcome necessity for the 2019 season.