UK Football

Fans, administrators report a sunny opening for renovated Commonwealth Stadium

Mickey Foellger, right and his wife Sandy enjoy their tailgate with friends Tom and Cecily Laycock,  at Commonwealth Stadium  on Saturday September 5, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Mickey Foellger, right and his wife Sandy enjoy their tailgate with friends Tom and Cecily Laycock, at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday September 5, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

The late-afternoon sun bathed Lynn and Rod Hill in light as they sat in their new seats on the second tier of Commonwealth Stadium.

The Hills' seats last year — on the other side of the stadium and directly below the press box — got shade in the early evening.

"I will miss that," said Lynn Hill of Lexington. "But come October, it will be nicer to be sitting here."

On Saturday, the Hills and thousands of other University of Kentucky football fans got their first look inside the stadium since its $130 million renovation. Many fans, like the Hills, were assigned new seats. Others had to park in different parking lots, or navigate two new roundabouts on Alumni Drive and find which gate was closest to their seats.

Although there were many changes, some traffic hiccups and some confusion, few UK fans complained.

Eric Monday, UK executive vice president of administration and finance, thanked fans for their patience.

"We have had a really good night," Monday said late Saturday. "We really want to compliment our fans for arriving early."

Monday said UK officials will meet next week and go over any possible changes that need to be made before the next home game. Pedestrian access across University Avenue will likely need to be tweaked, Monday said.

One other minor problem — the game clock malfunctioned at the beginning of the game for about four minutes. Jason Schlafer, executive associate athletics director, said the manufacturer was on site and was able to fix the clock. It's the same clock used last season, Schlafer said.

Many fans said they preferred the new Commonwealth Stadium to the old.

"We didn't have any problems getting here or parking," Rod Hill said as he watched Louisiana-Lafayette warm up before the game. "I'm impressed with the stadium as a whole."

One section over, Lewis Dixon, Garland Arnett Jr. and his father, Garland Arnett Sr., ate peanuts as they took in the view from their new seats.

The longtime ticket holders had been switched from the blue parking lot to the red parking lot.

Getting to the red parking lot turned into a nightmare after they had two parking attendants give them incorrect directions.

"It took us over an hour to get in," said Garland Arnett Jr. "We just parked and just now walked in."

Cecily and Tom Laycock and their friends Sandy and Mickey Foellger had no problems with parking or traffic. The four munched on snacks at a table behind the Foellgers' truck while awaiting kickoff.

A grassy area where they could tailgate used to be across from the parking lot where they park. Now, a row of buses and police cars blocked access to that area.

Another change — an area called the "bowl" where sororities and fraternities were allowed to gather — had been removed. Both the Laycocks and the Foellgers have children who attend UK. Their kids used to be able to walk from the bowl area and cross one parking lot to see their parents. With the bowl now gone, their kids were somewhere on campus and not at the game with their parents, Mickey Foellger said.

There were pluses.

Mickey Foellger noted that his new seats are "12 rows down from where they were."

"That's 12 less steps I have to walk down," he said.

Even if the Laycocks and the Foellgers didn't get to see their kids on Saturday, they were looking forward to seeing Fort Thomas native and UK quarterback Patrick Towles play his first game of the season.

Towles is friends with the Laycocks and Foellgers' kids.

"He really is a great kid," Sandy Foellger said.

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