Before we get to the Big Boys, let’s talk about FCS, which is the only level of DI football to see a new stadium. Many don’t think of New Hampshire when it comes to football, but this is a program that has been consistently good. They’ve made the playoffs ten straight years, narrowly missing out on the championship game in 2014. They finally have a facility to match the program as Wildcat Stadium replaces Cowell Stadium, which was basically on the same site. Even though there is still an annoying track on the outside of the field, the new stadium is a vast improvement over the basic, dull facility that the Wildcats played in for decades. Another school to open a stadium this season on or near the same site as the prior one, is South Dakota State University. The Jackrabbits say hello to the 19,340-seat Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium and this one (unlike UNH) does not have a track. Thus, beautiful sightlines accompany new amenities and it is indeed a great stadium. The final new opening is a surprise in that this is the second SWAC football stadium to open in the last five years as Panther Stadium is the new home for Prairie View A&M football. I’m typically nostalgic and sad to see older facilities leave, but when it comes to football stadiums at the FCS Level, they are often basic and lack character, so there’s not many tears shed when older ones depart.
For the Power 5 schools, we have several renovations. Most notably is Notre Dame, which had the most pure stadium experience in the sport. Now, we will see large buildings or towers on three of the sides to accommodate premium seating, plus there will eventually be a giant video scoreboard. I guess we were all prepped for the change when the plain natural grass field was replaced with turf and an ND logo a couple years ago. A sad goodbye to the last remaining big time stadium that still resembled a place of older times. Other schools making changes include Kansas State, Oklahoma and Arizona State. The new trend that will really be noticeable in the upcoming years: The end of the numbers game. Teams used to try and have the highest seating capacity to boast their stadium is “biggest”. Look for that to end as schools sacrifice seats for club and luxury space, all in the name of the dollar bill.