Just when the University at Albany’s football program is stepping up in class, moving to the powerhouse Colonial Athletic Association this season, the Great Danes will also unveil their new state-of-the-art stadium.
Purple and Gold everywhere you look.
Ford Field, named after legendary head coach Bob Ford, who announced he will retire following this season, currently seats 8,500 people. The layout is such that more seating can be added later on.
Local football fans will get their first look at the sparkling new stadium when the Great Danes host the University of Rhode Island in the home opener Sept. 14.
After many decades of playing on the old University Field, with its grass field, uncomfortable bleachers and tiny press box on top of the Physical Education Building, Ford Field is a major upgrade in facilities.
From field level to the top of the press box is roughly 100 feet. The huge video scoreboard is 38x22 feet and features hi-definition replays and videos.
“We’re very excited about how the new stadium is coming along,” said associate athletic director Rick Coe, who gave a group of media a tour of the facility Tuesday afternoon. “We’re expecting a sellout. We can’t wait.”
The “visiting side” bleachers seat 2,150. Roughly 2,000 people can sit on the grass or on blankets surrounding the field like an amphitheater. There are 4,500 seats on the “home side,” which includes the concourse, concessions, rest rooms and the mammoth press box.
The concourse area will feature two concession stands. There will also be six other areas throughout the facility for various food kiosks. The new campus food vender also plans on having a barbecue pit.
A retail merchandise store for UAlbany souvenirs can be found on the main level of the concourse, along with several rest rooms.
“Our football field itself will be Field Turf, which is the leader in the industry of synthetic field surfaces,” said Coe.
Season-ticket holders will have gold seats, and they will have the option of having waiters to serve them during the game.
Season-ticket holders also will have the option of purchasing premium seating in the SEFCU Arena lot. Other fans will have to park in the Dutch Quad lot for $7.
“We’ve been checking out the electric and video systems, and everything is working out just great so far,” said Coe. “We haven’t checked out the sound yet, but we will do that soon.”
The smell of fresh paint permeated throughout the complex. Soon, furniture for all the luxury suites will be in place.
There is a large lounge area for pregame and postgame receptions, and a special EMS station is in place to administer to any injuries that may occur to spectators.
“The place is fantastic,” said Ford, who is obviously very proud of the building named after him. “The thing that impressed me the most is that most of the construction is on just the one side, instead of
doing everything equally. But when you look at it, you can’t believe that there are only 4,000 seats or so on the larger side and 2,000 seats on the other side. It looks much bigger on the main side of the building.”
Ford said he has been monitoring the activity on the field as the home opener gets closer.
“We’re only a few weeks away, and I hope they get everything done,” he said. “It’s hard to believe when you’re looking at it just how big it is. It’s such a massive structure, especially considering where we’ve been playing all these years. I kind of get a kick out of it.”
Ford said he notices the workers putting a lot of the finishing touches around the facility.
“It really makes a difference when they start painting things and getting everything ready to go,” he said.
“For the money that was spent, which was less than $18 million, they did a heck of a job. Our original request was for $50 million. The facility was going to include our offices in the end zone, our home team locker and visiting locker, and a training room and weight room. We got none of that. I know they had to pare things down for the money, but they did quite a job.”
Coe said that there is room to add some of the other features Ford had requested in future years when there is more money in the budget.
Ford Field was built by the same Whiting-Turner construction company that built Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s East Campus Stadium in Troy.