Commonwealth Stadium, the home field for the University of Kentucky’s football team, is currently undergoing much needed renovation. The 40 year old facility most recently underwent significant upgrades in 1999, but it still lags behind most of the other stadiums throughout the SEC in terms of size and amenities. As head football coach Mark Stoops works to change the culture of UK Football and UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart continues to work to upgrade the facilities, there are other environmental changes that should also be considered to enhance the fan experience and give the Wildcats an increased home field advantage.
Music. The marching band is nice. But the music that is played during timeouts is… bland. It’s boring. It’s too much like Jock Jams, the late 1990s ESPN compilations of stadium rock. For a portion of the fan base, those types of songs are OK, but for the players on the field, and those fans closer to college than middle age, it might be time to upgrade the music selection. I’m not suggesting that Commonwealth be turned to some sort of rave party with people twerking in the stands, but it’s definitely time to use music to keep the crowd energized during the downtime on gamedays. If the crowd stays energized and engaged, then that energy can trickle down to the players.
Traditional Superstition. This is hard to pull off, but with Coach Stoops changing things, why not start something new and fresh? Florida State has Chief Osceola riding Renegade, throwing his flaming spear into the ground. At Clemson, the players run down the hill to the field and rub the rock. Notre Dame has the “Play Like a Champion” sign. There needs to be something uniquely Kentucky that can be incorporated into the Wildcat gameday experience to let fans and opponents know that it’s time to deal with the Cats. What that something is, I’m not sure. There needs to be something, however, to differentiate games at Commonwealth from any other college football venue.
Mascot. It’s time for a live mascot. If Colorado can trot out a buffalo and Texas can trot out a longhorn, then surely the University of Kentucky can provide the fans with a live wildcat. Tennesee and Georgia trot out their dogs, we can surely put our cat on display. The Big Blue Nation deserves a live Wildcat. This needs to happen.
Food. While I understand the need for mass produced food and the like within a stadium. But, there should definitely be a premium spot where folks can sample some of the Commonwealth’s finest cuisine. Burgoo. The KY Hot Brown. There are plenty of dishes that can be served to enhance the fan experience. Heck, I’d be happy with a KFC Buffet.
The facilities are improving. Coach Stoops and his staff are recruiting like crazy. The tide seems to be (finally) turning for UK Football. What cannot be overlooked, however, is the overall fan experience at the games. Keep the fans engaged to really give the improving Wildcats a much needed boost in Commonwealth Stadium’s homefield advantage.