Signs of what's to come at Wallace Wade

Jul. 08, 2014 @ 10:46 PM

Cosmetically appealing and comfortable, the most visible signs of the better things to come at Wallace Wade Stadium are in place.

Work crews over the past month have installed 6,346 blue, chair-back seats at Duke football’s 85-year-old home stadium, the initial steps in the massive overhaul of the facility that will take place over the next two years.

“They look great,” said Mike Cragg, Duke’s deputy athletics director in charge of facilities. “I thought they would. It’s a good start to a new stadium.”

The seats, in seven sections, replace the bleachers that have surrounded the playing field for decades. They have been installed only on the stadium’s east side from the 10-yard line to the opposite 10-yard line, covering sections 3-10.

New handrails are still being installed and some resurfacing work remains to be completed before Duke opens its season against Elon on Aug. 30.

With extensive work scheduled for the west side of the stadium following this football season, Cragg said it wasn’t prudent to install the blue seats on that side at this time. They will be added to the west side in time for the 2016 season, when the majority of the work will be done to create a vastly improved stadium.

“We’re moving along well with plans for what will really be a new football stadium,” Cragg said.

Duke announced plans for the Wallace Wade Stadium overhaul in September 2012 when the Duke Forward program was unveiled. Duke Forward is a $3.25 billion fundraising initiative the supports campus-wide projects and $250 million of that is for athletic department projects.

The cost of the reserved season tickets in the new seats is $250, and Duke athletic department spokesman Art Chase said sales have “gone very well and been very well received.” Duke didn’t specify how many tickets have been sold.

The stadium improvements come as Duke’s on-field football product is, perhaps, as a good as it’s ever been. The Blue Devils won a school-record 10 games last season to claim their first-ever ACC Coastal Division championship and earn a berth in the ACC Championship Game.

Led by national Coach of the Year David Cutcliffe, Duke played Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Coupled with Duke’s Belk Bowl appearance in 2012, the past two years mark the first time in school history the Blue Devils have played in bowl games in back-to-back seasons.

In addition to the home opener with Elon, the Blue Devils also have home games against Kansas, Tulane, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest this season.

When those games are done, the major portion of the stadium improvements will begin.

Cragg said plans are for Wallace Wade Stadium’s track to be removed, the playing field lowered and around 4,000 new seats along the field added in time for the 2015 season.

In addition, the Finch-Yeager Building which currently houses Duke’s sports medicine facilities year round and serves as press facilities and suites on gamedays, will be demolished after this season.

The new tower, with improved luxury suites, won’t be completed until 2016. So Cragg said temporary facilities will be used for the 2015 season.

But by 2016, he said, the tower is scheduled to be done and seven more sections of blue seats will be installed on the west side to match the east side.

“The sightlines will be great and it will have an all new feel,” Cragg said.

For now, though, the new blue seats on the east side are a glimpse into the better stadium of the future.