ODU: New football stadium will offer better seats, upgraded amenities and a livelier atmosphere

(Southside Daily/Courtesy of ODU)
(Southside Daily/Courtesy of ODU)

NORFOLK — Fans who walk into the new Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium to watch Old Dominion’s football team this season will enjoy new amenities, including modern concessions and rest rooms, a mammoth video board and more comfortable seats with better sight lines.

But of all the groups that attend games, students likely will benefit the most.

And that’s not just because they’ll be sitting in more comfy seats. ODU’s Student Government Association has worked with the athletics department and the University to come up with a game plan to make the student experience livelier and more entertaining.

The SGA and ODU plan to host a pregame reception for students at a new brick plaza on the northeast side of the stadium near the Williamsburg Lawn when the Monarchs open against Norfolk State on Aug. 31. There will be a DJ, prizes, snacks and bottled for the first few hundred students to arrive.

ODU plans to give t-shirts and hats to the first 1,500 students who will enter the stadium through the northeast gate, which is designated for students only. The first 75 will also be allowed on the field along with the band to form the tunnel-like formation through which the football team sprints onto the field.

The T-shirts will say “Reign On.” Students will raise a giant sign during the game that will repeat that message.

SGA President Isaiah Lucas said moving into an essentially new, $67.5 million stadium “gives us the opportunity to create new traditions. Reign On is a new tradition. Bringing some students onto the field is another new tradition that we hope takes hold.”

Students surely will embrace the new creature comforts in the stadium.

Students were largely seated in the north end zone during ODU’s first 10 seasons. Concessions and rest rooms were a long walk away and the seating there is a bit cramped.

Now more than 1,000 seats for students will be on the sidelines. They are wider, have more leg room and back support. They also offer a much better view of the game. The stands are closer to the field and the seating more vertical. Students will feel like they are on top of the game.

Students will be able to use their meal cards to pay for food at the seven themed concession stands, which will offer everything from Mexican fare to vegan burgers.

As for the game itself, expect students to be amped up.

Local DJ Julian Rivera, also known as DJDOYATHANG, will be in stands playing tunes and exhorting students. He’s been a popular addition to ODU men’s basketball games.

Student attendance at football and basketball games is trending down around the nation. Jason Chandler, ODU’s associate athletic director for strategic marketing and revenue generation, said the University is determined grow student attendance here.

“As we were planning this project, we always had the students in mind,” he said. “We talked to students and listened to their suggestions and concerns. That’s why we’re bringing the DJ into the stadium and why our students will sit on the sidelines. We’re so happy that the new stadium will provide them with an enhanced experience.”

(Rendering) S.B. Ballard Stadium is scheduled to open Aug. 31. (Soujtside Daily/Courtesy of ODU)
(Rendering) S.B. Ballard Stadium is scheduled to open Aug. 31. (Soujtside Daily/Courtesy of ODU)

Lucas said that he thinks meal cards “will be the most popular change.”

“They’ll be able to buy crab cakes, nachos and pizza,” he said. “That’s really exciting. Having a DJ in the student section is going to make the games a fun experience. At times since I’ve been here, students have left games early. I think the DJ will help entice people to stay.

“We’re ready to bring this all to life.”

Students can reserve tickets by going to www.odusports.com/students.

But if you don’t reserve tickets, and it’s nearing game time, no worries. Simply bring your student ID and you can enter at the northeast gate.

Chandler says he’d love to have 3,000 or 4,000 students in the stands for every game this season.

“We want every student to know that you are welcome,” he said. “And we want you to know that we’ll do everything we can to make your experience enjoyable,” Chandler.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.