How does Mark Stoops feel about UK’s opener not selling out?
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The Kentucky football team’s season opener at Kroger Field on Saturday wasn’t a sellout, but the announced attendance was still higher than the kickoff to last year’s fall campaign.
An announced crowd of 54,610 watched the Wildcats take on Toledo, a number that was up from 49,138 fans at last year’s home opener against Central Michigan.
Saturday’s crowd was still just the fourth-highest among the five season openers since Kroger Field’s most recent renovation in 2015, however. The first crowd for the 2015 season — against UL Lafayette — was announced at 62,933, and the attendance numbers for the home opener had dropped in each year until Saturday’s increase.
The home opener in 2016 drew 57,230 fans for a game against Southern Miss, and the crowd for the homer opener in 2017 against Eastern Kentucky was listed at 54,868 fans.
Weather for Saturday’s noon kickoff was announced as 85 degrees and mostly sunny.
The largest crowd at any Kentucky home game since the 2015 renovation to Kroger Field was 63,543 fans for last season’s loss to Georgia. The current Kroger Field capacity is officially listed at 61,000, though the announced attendance has been higher for several games since the 2015 renovation.
UK Coach Mark Stoops expressed disappointment Thursday that the home opener was not sold out coming off the Wildcats’ 10-3 season that ended with a Citrus Bowl victory, the program’s first New Year’s Day bowl win in 67 years.
“I’m a little disappointed in that, to be honest with you,” Stoops said of the ticket situation. “Coming off 10 wins and, you know, these guys have worked extremely hard and we need the support out there. It makes a difference. We’re all trying to build this program.”
The Cats’ opponent next Saturday night, Eastern Michigan, will be another team from outside the power conferences. Florida comes to Kroger Field on Sept. 14 for the Southeastern Conference opener and the first marquee home game of the 2019 season.
The largest crowd for a home opener in Commonwealth Stadium/Kroger Field history came in 2009 with an announced attendance of 70,988 fans for the Wildcats’ 31-27 victory over Louisville in Rich Brooks’ final home opener as UK’s head coach.
Attendance for UK home opener
2019: 54,610 vs. Toledo
2018: 49,138 vs. Central Michigan
2017: 54,868 vs. Eastern Kentucky
2016: 57,230 vs. Southern Miss
2015: 62,933 vs. UL Lafayette
2014: 50,398 vs. UT Martin
2013: 54,846 vs. Miami (Ohio)
Eastern Michigan at Kentucky
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
TV: ESPNU or SEC Network alternate channel
Records: Kentucky 1-0, Eastern Michigan 1-0