Athletic Department hopes stadium changes boost attendance

The Jackrabbit Central Stadium Store is one of the newest additions to Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. It will feature the clock from Coughlin Alumni Stadium which will show the running time during football games.


More than a quarter of the seats in DJD Stadium were left unfilled at an average game last season. It’s typical for a new stadium not to reach maximum capacity in its opening year, but the athletic department wants to do better. 

The department remains optimistic average attendance will increase compared to last year, and that multiple games will sell out for the 2017 season.

Jeff Holm, senior associate athletic director who oversees facilities and operations, said the first year in the new stadium went extremely well, but admitted there were changes to be made.

“Things went well, but there’s certainly always hiccups,” Holm said. “I had a list of about 50 items that we could somehow tweak at the end of the year, but they’re all somewhat smaller items that most people wouldn’t see.”

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Those small tweaks include parking expansion, optimizing traffic flow in and out of the stadium and minor security changes, such as ensuring security personnel are stationed in locations where fans need the most assistance. 

Due to ongoing construction at the Performing Arts Center, only the farthest east lot will be available for game-day parking. To make up for this loss of space, there will be parking available in adjacent fields. The specific location may change on a game-to-game basis depending on weather.

When leaving games, some roads will be turned into one-ways to help fans exit the stadium faster. The right lane will be exclusively for turning right while the left lane will be specifically for turning left. 

There will be extra security stationed around roads exiting the stadium to help direct traffic and make sure fans are safe going through campus construction.

No changes will be made for tailgating. Students will still have their reserved tailgating lot north of Frost Arena where they can bring their own beverages, food and tailgating games.

To consume alcoholic beverages, students must wear a designated wristband, which can be obtained in the tailgating lots.

Current Wellness Center construction will not affect or overflow into the student tailgate lot.

One of the biggest modifications to the stadium is the addition of the Jackrabbit Central Stadium Store in the southwest concourse, open to fans only on game days.

“There will be a wide variety of exclusive merchandise that will only be available at the stadium store,” said Amber Healy, assistant director of The University Bookstore. “It will be worth it for Jacks fans to come check it out.”

The Jackrabbit Central Stadium Store will be open five hours prior to kick-off and will remain open throughout the game. Not only will it feature high-quality gear, but fans will also appreciate its unique, rustic atmosphere.

A giant panorama of the first game in the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium will be the centerpiece on one wall, while another wall will feature blue and yellow wood from the Coughlin Alumni Stadium bleachers, stenciled seat numbers and all.

Another centerpiece to the store’s décor is the original Coughlin Alumni Stadium scoreboard, which will provide running game time during each home game.

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“We appreciate all the hard work from Facilities and Services to make sure all this happened and have it all come together,” remarked Healy.  “We are excited for this new experience and look forward to hearing what Jackrabbit fans think of the new store.”

According to Jonathan Treiber, director of marketing, there will be a great effort this year to increase in-venue attendance. 

“We want fans to have a great experience from when they leave their house to when they get to the game,” Treiber said. “We are working to try to get as many opportunities to interact with both kids and adults, getting as much in-game entertainment and promotions as possible.”

Treiber said it’s increasingly challenging to get people to come to games late in the season due to the comforts and amenities offered at their homes and sports bars. This will be the second year all games will be broadcast on ESPN3.

The total student attendance for the 2016 season was 14,809 and has steadily increased the past 5 years. Treiber noted that he has set a personal goal to increase student attendance by 10 percent this season. That’s a big jump from last year, but he remains optimistic. 

“I would expect that we will have an increase in attendance this year due to the scheduling of games we have,” Treiber said.  “For anybody who hasn’t been to a Jackrabbit football game, this is the perfect year to give it a shot.”

The final noticeable change the new stadium presented last year was the installation of artificial turf, a big step up from the traditional grass field of Coughlin Alumni Stadium.

Treiber said upkeep is now much easier. A Caterpillar construction vehicle with a bucket is used to drag snow off the turf, which is not possible with grass. There is also better drainage for melting snow or rain. 

Along with easier maintenance, players seem to prefer artificial turf over grass. The absence of potholes and mud patches has its perks.

“Personally, I love turf because it’s a sturdier surface,” Christion said, “and, no matter what the conditions are —rain, snow, or shine — the playing ground is always pretty good.”

The Jacks will kick off the 2017 home season in Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium against Duquesne on Thursday, Aug. 31.