By GUY RAMSEY, UK ATHLETICS
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 2016 Kentucky football season is around the corner. UK Athletics has a number of exciting changes in store for the Wildcats’ seven-game home schedule, which kicks off against Southern Miss on Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Over the coming three weeks, those game-day changes will be spotlighted in a three-part series. The first part of the series will focus on marketing and promotional activities.
- With the unveiling of the new $45 million Kentucky Football Training Facility this summer, the headquarters of the program has moved next door to Commonwealth. That means the Cat Walk will be different this season. The Cat Walk will still begin outside Gate 1 two hours and 15 minutes prior to kickoff, but the team will proceed past Gate 1 and between Commonwealth Stadium and Nutter Field House and to the locker room in the Kentucky Football Training Facility. The new Cat Walk route is expected to be more engaging and intimate and fans are encouraged to line up between Gate 1 and Commonwealth Stadium.
- After the Cat Walk, fans will have a second chance to cheer their team pregame. Beginning 75 minutes prior to kickoff and in groups for approximately 30 minutes, the Wildcats will make their way from the Kentucky Football Training Facility and through the plaza to enter Commonwealth through Gate 12.
- UK Athletics hosted a series of pregame concerts during the 2015 season. The concerts will continue for select games this season – starting with Southern Miss – moving to a new location along with the Cat Walk. Concerts will move to a new stage outside Gate 12 in the plaza adjacent to the Kentucky Football Training Facility and the Glenn Hyundai Blue Lot. The team shop will also move to the same area.
- Fans looking for activities like inflatables, mascot appearances and autograph sessions should look no further than the new Coca-Cola Fan Zone. The Coca-Cola Fan Zone will be located inside Nutter Field House with the site of the live broadcast of the Texas Roadhouse Countdown to Kickoff just outside.
- Wildcat Park will play host to the new 1865 Club, where Kentucky football fans can tailgate in style. Six units featuring a kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, heat and air, half-bath with running water and four televisions are available for single-game and full-season rental. Complete information can be found here.
- Inside the stadium, the experience for UK fans will also improve, starting with new bench-back seating installed throughout the lower level. The entire lower level of Commonwealth now features either chair-back or bench-back seats, with the exception of the student section in the East end zone.
- The Commonwealth Stadium ribbon boards will be used in a more fan-friendly way this season, with expanded team and player statistics shown on the corner ribbon boards throughout the game. Previously, these stats were only shown during timeouts. A game-in-progress interface showing the time and score will now be shown on the ribbon boards at both 20-yard lines, moving from a single display at midfield to make it easier to follow along with the action.
- Concessions have improved for the 2016 season, with new offerings throughout the stadium. Items taste-tested at season-ticket holder open house events this summer will be available at select concession stands, including Bourbon Ice Cream, Hot Brown Nachos, Pork Chop Sandwich, Pulled Pork Nachos, Chicken & Waffle Cone, Twisted Tator, Beef and Cheddar Croissant, Cat Tail (Sausage/Donut) and Hot Chicken Sandwich.
- Additionally, Four Papa John’s points-of-sale will be located on the lower concourse and five on the upper concourse. Nine Dippin’ Dots portable locations will be located throughout the stadium and new Frito Lay Top N Go Walking Tacos will be sold near Gate 1. More detailed information about concession locations and pricing will be available later. Complimentary water will be available at all concession stands.
- The concourses also feature new interactive areas in addition to concessions options. Fans will now be able to pose for pictures next to specially designed graphics to capture their experience at Commonwealth Stadium. These photo walls will be located on the lower-level concourse inside Gate 2 and Gate 11. Season ticket holders who renewed for the 2016 season will be honored on the Wall of Commitment. Sponsored by Kentucky Farm Bureau, the Wall of Commitment will be located in the East concourse on the walls outside the recruiting room.