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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Football Players Tour S.B. Ballard Stadium

By Harry Minium

It was the first time Old Dominion University's football players got an up-close and personal look at their new digs. And when they walked to the 50-yard line at S.B. Ballard Stadium and looked around, most reacted like Marcus Haynes, the sophomore defensive end from Bowie, Md.

"It literally sent chills up and down my spine thinking about making plays in front of our fans in a brand-new stadium," he said. "This is surreal for us. Words can't explain what this means to us.

"We knew it was going to be nice. But we didn't know it was going to be this nice."

Nor likely do many fans. The enormity of the how much better the stadium will be is difficult to appreciate until you see it.

ODU is in the midst of a $67.5 million renovation of Ballard Stadium that is making over what most of what was an 82-year-old stadium whose fan amenities were lacking.

ODU's players, coaches and other athletic officials met Stephen Ballard, the stadium's namesake and whose construction firm is doing the renovationreconstruction, at midfield, where he spoke for about 20 minutes.

He and other S.B. Ballard Construction officials explained the process of demolishing the old Foreman Field, drilling 675 piles into the ground, pouring 24 million pounds of concrete to form the foundation and installing 760 pieces of precast cement weighing more than 22 million pounds and that were pieced together to form the walls and buildings in the stadium.

So far, 2,400 truckloads of material have been unloaded at the construction site.

S.B. Ballard construction is now installing 3.8 million pounds of steel and aluminum that will form the stands.

Two things are eye-catching about the new stadium. The first is that it's much taller than the old Foreman Field, which stood 53 feet. The top of the West Side press box is 95 feet high, and the lights are 140 feet.

Tony Palacioz, who oversees safety on the construction site, took a few people up to the top level of the west side, and the view from 85 feet, where the press box and some suites will be located, is breathtaking.

To the right you have a clear view of downtown Norfolk and to the left you can see the Norfolk International Terminals and the Norfolk Naval Base.

The same view will be available for many fans.

It also has the look and feel of a big-time stadium. Foreman Field exuded history but was a quaint facility that appeared more worthy of a Football Championship Subdivision program.

This will be the fifth season for ODU in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and the Monarchs will finally play in a an FBS stadium.

Seating will increase slightly, from 20,118 to 22,480. "While it won't be the biggest stadiums in FBS," athletic director Wood Selig said, "it will be among the finest."

There are two levels of seating on both sides. They are much closer to the field, just 6 feet away at the corners of the stadium. And they are positioned downward at an angle, which means fans will have a much better view of the field.

Unlike Foreman Field, the stadium is designed so that crowd noise will reverberate rather than dissipate.

"The fans are going to be right on top of us," coach Bobby Wilder said. "Most teams aren't accustomed to the kind of atmosphere we're going to have here. It's going to intimidate visiting teams."

The amenities will also improve dramatically. There will be seven full-service concessions stands offering a variety of fare, and vendors will be selling food and drinks on both levels of both sides.

There will be 15,923 new seats on the east and west sides and all will have back support, including 6,170 chairback seats.

The restrooms are being updated, with 232 toilets, including 149 for women.

An aside here: the deadline for buying season tickets and guaranteeing the chance to pick your seats, is May 1. Tickets start at $99, or $16.50 per game.

Link to ODU foothall season ticket information

After the finishing at midfield, the football team was served a lunch catered by Ballard underneath the Atlantic Bay Football Complex, where many players took time to look up from the barbecue sandwiches and gaze at the stadium.

"The fans were loud last season," Haynes said. "But this stadium will take it to a new level.

"We all really feel blessed."

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