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Gary B. Graves | The Associated Press | November 25, 2013

Kentucky reveals plans for stadium renovation

Kentucky Football

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Commonwealth Stadium will have a smoother, rounder look that Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart ultimately hopes will create a more intimate spectator atmosphere and a big-time experience for Wildcat football players and recruits.

University officials on Monday unveiled the design for the $110 million renovation of the Wildcats' stadium that adds a new facade around the 40-year-old structure, upper-level suites, a new game-day locker room and recruiting lounge atop a new tunnel.

Designed by Kansas City, Mo.,-based HNTB and Rosstarrant Architects, lead planner Gerardo Prado said Monday it carries out the school's goal of being "classy" and "cool."

Work is expected to begin in early 2014 with completion scheduled for 2015. Seating capacity will be reduced from its current 67,942 to about 61,000, but Barnhart envisions a more fan-friendly facility.

"We didn't walk into this thinking we were going to get (the) Dallas Cowboys' stadium," Barnhart said after Monday's news conference that included Gov. Steve Beshear, university President Eli Capilouto and first-year Wildcats coach Mark Stoops.

"We knew what we had to work with and the parameters to fund it. That was the case."

Barnhart came away pleased with state-of-the-art designs and amenities he believes will bring Commonwealth up to date with other Southeastern Conference facilities and beyond.

The difference, Prado said is, "We didn't want something that looks like every other stadium in the SEC. We wanted something that was modern. This is the newest stadium in the SEC and we wanted to be distinct enough and iconic."

As the design process continues, Barnhart seems happiest about the prospective recruiting lounge in the east end zone featuring a patio overlooking the field. It will sit atop a new tunnel where the Wildcats will enter from behind the goal post instead of the current left corner.

The multi-purpose room will include flat-screen TVs and can be used for outside events. Besides the new locker room, Commonwealth will get a new training table and on-site kitchen for the first time.

The unveiling follows February's state Legislature approval of the project that includes $100 million to build a science building, two-thirds of which will be paid from athletics revenue. No money from the state's General Fund will be used on construction.

Commonwealth's main concourse on the south side will feature an enclosed lobby leading to a premium field-level club and the training table. A mezzanine level will be added with clubs featuring rolling chair-back seating and TVs.

Above that will be a new loge where the current press box exists. The press box will move to the upper deck along with 28 new suites.

The stadium's current light poles will be replaced by banked lighting.

Upper concourses will expand 20 feet and have new bathrooms, concession stands and elevators. Surrounding everything is a facade featuring precast concrete blocks setting atop a base of Kentucky limestone; the walls of the club lobby are adorned with reclaimed barnwood finish that the AD believes establishes a unique identity.

"I'm very excited about the stadium," Stoops said before heading to practice. "It's already having an effect on our program. ... With this you can see that we have that great support."

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