Stadium demolition viewed with excitement, worry

SMU plans to remove its aging stadium seating and replace the turf

The stands of Huskies Stadium were originally built in the 1960s. (Photo Dave Lostracco
The stands of Huskies Stadium were originally built in the 1960s. (Photo Dave Lostracco)

Huskies Stadium will take on a much different look by May, after much of its aging infrastructure has been removed.

SMU football coach Perry Marchese says it will be a sad day when the stands are torn down, but he welcomes the changes.

“The stadium has a ton of character and there’s lots of history, but it is about due time for replacement,” he says.

A tender for the decommissioning was issued last week, that will see Saint Mary’s stands and press box on the stadium’s western side removed and the grounds levelled.  A separate plan also will also replace the field’s turf, which has reached the expiry of its 10-year shelf life.  There is currently no definite timeline for rebuilding the stands.

As before, temporary stadium seating will be available on the east side of the field but the renovation could eliminate 2,500 seats and may require that fans sit on the grass. Marchese doesn’t know whether all the changes will lead to lower attendance but hopes that the renovations will build excitement with the team.

“Any sport, anywhere in the world, the more people at the game the better the atmosphere,” he says. “We’ll do everything we can to get more people here.”

One tradition that Marchese hopes will not change involves fans sliding down the often-muddy hill next to the stands in celebration of touchdowns.  The coach believes the top third of this hill will be removed during the renovations.  Marchese hopes the tradition will continue regardless.

“It might not be a fun a ride, might be a little shorter ride,” he says chuckling.

Other recent renovations to SMU’s academic facilities included the Homburg Centre in 2010. (Photo: Dave Lostracco)

Saint Marys’ defensive lineman Mykyta Clancy is a four-year veteran of the team, but also played in the stadium during high school.

“It was kind of a big deal, back in the day, to play at SMU on the artificial turf,” he says recalling his high school years.

Clancy is excited the renovations will replace the turf, which has degraded from the time he played on it in high school.

“From a football perspective, we like to play on the newest material… it’s a big focus especially when it comes to recruiting,” he says adding, “playing on new turf is like night and day.”

One fan not convinced

Robert White was a student at the school when the team went to three consecutive Vanier Cups, winning twice.

“It used to be glorious.  We had the dog pound, and they had the cannon they would shoot off.  Old people would go; young people would go. Everybody in school knew when the game was going to be,” recalls White, who is still a student, finishing two degrees, at Saint Mary’s.  “Now, nobody knows when the game is going to be.”

White has noticed a drop in the number fans since he started at the school and is worried that removing the stands will mean even lower turnouts.

“I think there will be less, but it’s pretty low right now,” he says, recalling the attendance during SMU’s championship years.

Clancy remembers the huge attendance during the championship seasons. He now notices that the stadium is packed for opening day but fans dwindle as the season progresses.

“It’s kind of disappointing,” he says, “I love our fans… but when we had the AUS championship game I felt like more than half the stands were Mount A supporters.”

White usually stations himself inside the beer tent, so the stand demolition will not directly affect him.  However, he worries that the space needed to seat fans will push the tent away from the centre of the field and could obscure his view.

White realizes that the stadium decommissioning will be temporary and that Saint Mary’s plans to rebuild at some point.

“I’d be super excited for a new stadium,” he exclaims. White even has some suggestions for the stadium replacement.

“I’d want there to be lots of space, good food to eat, and I’d like there to be an area to drink beer in the stands.”