Have to wonder why Tom Jurich has yet to announce plans for the next expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Enlarging the stadium to at least 65,000 seats would appear to be inevitable.
When the invitation for bids for a feasibility study was announced, the project was to have been completed in a period of a few months and should have been completed a while back. The guess here is the University of Louisville’s development staff is out shaking the bushes and that Jurich is tinkering with design concepts. If true, that leaves the questions of when and where to expand.
Any expansion will almost certainly have been completed by Sept, 2, 2019. That’s when Notre Dame is scheduled to play its first game ever at Papa John’s. That’s the day Jurich will look out from his perch in the Brown & Williamson Club suite and see a standing room only crowd of 63,000 to 70,000 fans. The only problem with that scenario is that UofL will have waited at least two more years to begin the expansion, and construction costs will have risen exponentially.
There was no need for expansion this season, with Kentucky or Florida State not on the home schedule. But he’s going to have to decide soon if it’s going to happen in time for 2016, a date that would coincide with the opening of the new Academic Center for Excellence. That’s unlikely. Two major construction projects occurring virtually side by side could get complicated, making a 2017 target date more likely.
So where to expand? The logical part of the stadium to expand is the north end zone, which, by college football standards, drastically needs an upgrade. The Howard Schnellenberger complex, which was a step forward when it was constructed, is cluttered with advertising, as is the video scoreboard with the massive speakers and its own advertising. To put it bluntly, that end of the stadium is starting to look a little tacky. Even the Johnny Unitas statue is starting to look uncomfortable, especially when coupled with the Cardinal logo inflatables.
An end zone concept similar to that at Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.V., which includes luxury boxes at the top, general seating at the lower level, along with a special place for the UofL Marching Band would seem to fit pretty well there, with luxury boxes generating the income to help offset the expansion. Adding a second level above either the B&W Club or above the south end zone would be much more expensive, as well as creating an unsightly imbalance in the overall design, reflecting a piecemeal approach.
Only Tom Jurich knows for certain, but an inescapable conclusion is that expansion will occur in the north end zone, that it will include at least 10,000 more seats bringing capacity to 65,000 and it will be ready for Notre Dame in 2019.