In addition to adding several freshmen that are competing for playing time in the upcoming season, Duke football has also received another major addition this offseason—6,346 blue, chair-back seats for Wallace Wade Stadium.
The new seats blanketing the east side of the stadium, along with new handrails put in to create a more fan-friendly environment are the first of many steps that will transform the Duke landmark into a marketable commodity.
But after the 2014 season, the real fun will begin.
Following the Blue Devils last home game Nov. 29 against Wake Forest, five major projects are going to start that are scheduled to be completed before the 2015 season kicks off.
Most notably, the track will be ripped out, the field will be lowered and approximately 4,000 lower-level seats will be put in to get fans closer to and more engaged in the action.
Additionally, a new video scoreboard and a new field-access elevator required for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act will make the atmosphere completely different when fans return for the 2015 season.
A sixth project—the demolition of the Finch-Yeager building, home to Duke's sports medicine facilities and the press box on game days—will also begin during next offseason, but the newer version of the building is not scheduled to be ready until the start of the 2016 season.
The renovated tower will contain more modern luxury suites, but the lengthy process means that temporary facilities—which have not yet been announced—will be used next year.
Blue seats will also be installed on the west side of the stadium in the summer of 2016 to mirror those currently residing on the east side.
The specific renovations to Wallace Wade Stadium will coincide with the beginning of Duke's overall plan to construct a modern athletic campus to enhance the viewing experience for all sports.
A new athletic plaza is in the works that, when completed, will be at the center of the athletic campus. The plaza will be intended as an area for fans to congregate before and after Duke athletic events as a hub near a new pavilion that will house a team store and offices for ticketing, sports information, compliance and the Iron Dukes.
The 16-year old Murray Building—located just off the concourse for Wallace Wade Stadium and home to Duke's primary training and weight rooms—will also eventually be doubled in size and modernized.
All of these projects share a common funding source, the Duke Forward Campaign, the fundraising initiative with approximately $3.25 billion of funding for campus-wide projects and about $250 million earmarked for projects related to the athletic department.
For now, with most of the projects necessary to make the modern athletic campus a reality still on the horizon, fans will have to trust that the level of comfort felt from Wallace Wade's new seats will be the same feeling they can have in a few years as the Blue Devil football program continues expanding.
According to Stubhub, season tickets in the sections with the blue seats cost approximately $250-$275, and coming off a 10-win season with recruiting classes that are improving each year, Duke football's on-the-field product and new facilities could make those prices skyrocket.
For a stadium that has had essential no major upgrades in the past 70 years, a major makeover is in the works, and the blue seats are the first concrete representation of its new direction.