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October 1, 2013

Stadium expansion fever coming

Can you feel it yet? Stadium expansion fever is coming.

If Charlie Strong is openly discussing the possible expansion of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the bulldozers can't be far behind.

The head football coach doesn't talk about stadium expansion without having broached the subject with Tom Jurich, the vice president of athletics. Strong has said more than once that TJ has never turned down a request to improve the football program. So if expansion is what Charlie wants, we can assume that Jurich is probably on board.

All three of the first three games were sold out in the 55,000-seat stadium, with an average of 53,533 persons in attendance. For such foes as Miami, Ohio; Eastern Kentucky and Florida International, suggesting that the fan base has advanced to the point that it will turn out to support UofL football no matter who the opponent may be that day. As long as the team is winning, of course.

Upcoming games against Rutgers and Central Florida, two of the strongest teams on the schedule, are certain to be sellouts. Add in Houston, which is undefeated right now, and rival Memphis in the final game, and a new all-time attendance record is all but assured this season.

Entering the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, advancing from one of the softest schedules in the country to the strongest in the school's history with Florida State, Miami, NC State, and Wake Forest coming to PJCS. Demand for seats is going to be through the roof.

Seems like no-brainer, time to expand. The only question then is how to proceed and how soon. The quicker the better. Probably too late for have anything done for next season so it would have to be during the next two three years. I'm pretty confident UofL could sell as many as 75,000 seats for the game against Notre Dame in Louisville in 2017.

All sorts of ideas have been tossed around, including adding second tiers to the west side above the Brown & Williamson Club or above the party deck in the south end zone. Adding second stories to those sections would be unsightly, greatly detracting from the stadium's overall appearance.

The most logical step, and the one Charlie Strong favors, would be closing in the north end, possibly raising the seating capacity to 70,000 seats or significantly more if the expansion didn't have to include additional luxury suites to help finance the project. The only minus would be obscuring the view of the Howard Schnellenberger football complex, which would be more than offset by the presence of thousands more UofL football fans.

The new addition would have to include an authentic tunnel from the complex, making the start of games more dramatic, and the Johnny Unitas Statue would finally be repositioned or moved to another location. Things that most fans want to happen.

Keep Charlie Strong happy. Reinvest in the product, invest for the future. Let's get it started.

Charlie Springer, the founder and owner of UofLCardGame.com, is a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and former Managing Editor of Louisville Magazine. In addition, he was Internal Communications Manager for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation and currently serves as a Legislative Consultant for the National Association of Tobacco Outlets. He is a University of Louisville graduate and a longtime fan.

UofLCardGame.com has been covering University of Louisville athletics since 2007.

Click HERE to read more of Charlie's writing at UofLCardGame.com

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