By Dylan Hand
There has been a lot of buzz around campus with the athletic program this year, with much of the focus being on the new video board at the Whittemore Center Arena. The next big thing in Wildcat Country? The new football stadium. It will be over a year until the new stadium opens, and the athletic department wants students to be aware of all the big changes.
The athletic department hosted an open forum Wednesday night in Lundholm Gymnasium to answer students’ questions about the new stadium. Speeches by director of intercollegiate athletics Marty Scarano and Jon Danos, the senior associate athletics director, were accompanied by a slide presentation, virtual tour of the stadium, and a lengthy question and answer session.
“We do all of this for the students. I want to give them every opportunity to be fully appraised of what we are doing,” Scarano said. “The stadium is built for the student body. We want to be sure that you all enjoy it.”
Both Scarano and Danos urged that feedback from students will be paramount in their efforts to make the games a social experience in which all students will want to participate.
Danos, the senior associate athletic director for external affairs, came to UNH from his former role as partner, president, and CEO of Opening Day Partners, a stadium building company. He has plenty of experience building stadiums to know that there is more than one way to build a stadium.
“Each stadium may have similar function, but what makes a stadium unique, what makes it special, is its fanbase,” Danos said. “That’s why it’s so important to take the unique perspectives of the fan base and weave it into these stadiums.”
One of the staples of the current stadium is the student section in the east end zone. Affectionately referred to as “The Dungeon,” the student bleachers were originally going to be replaced with the new stadium construction, and the student section was to be moved out of the end zone. However, the student turnout and impact in both of last season’s home playoffs was so great that plans were altered to keep the student section intact. It was feedback from the students that made this change.
“The team really wanted the kids right there too. They really feed off the energy of the student section,” said Mike Murphy, associate athletic director for communications. “We did not want to lose the connection between students and student athletes.”
Next to the student section will be the Cat Pack Plaza, an area designed for various activities and events for students, like games or live bands and DJs.
The plaza only scratches the surface of ideas to revolutionize the fan experience at football games. Ideas like fireworks shows, prize giveaways, more frequent transportation to and from the stadium, and live concerts are all in the works and will provide students more reasons to want to be at football games.
Students at the forum offered great ideas of their own, like expanded food options at concession stands, new tailgating policies, initiatives to cut down on waste, t-shirt giveaways and even a pancake breakfast for the early games, to which Scarano promised he’d flip pancakes himself if the students guaranteed they would bring 5,000 of their peers to the game.
Scarano and Danos were genuinely interested in the students’ ideas and made notes of all of them.
“This is your university, your stadium, and your time,” Danos said. “It’s more than a stadium. It’s a big, beautiful advertisement for UNH as a whole.”