NORMAL — Every wall might not be painted and every bit of trim might not be installed, but there will be football at Illinois State’s Hancock Stadium on Sept. 21.
Larry Lyons, the school’s longtime executive associate athletic director who officially takes over as director of athletics on July 1, said Thursday the stadium’s new east side will be operational when Abilene Christian provides the opposition for the Redbirds’ home opener three months from Friday.
“There will be substantial completion by the Sept. 21 game. The expectation is the facility will function appropriately so we can use it,” Lyons said. “It will be ‘pardon our dust’ in some respects. But we have confidence we will be very, very close.”
Because the original completion of the $26 million project was set for Aug. 1, Lyons hesitates to say construction has caught up after being termed slightly behind in early spring.
“August 1st was the best-case scenario if there were no weather issues and everything was delivered on time,” said Lyons. “We are very pleased with where construction is at this point. The contractors and subcontractors have really come together with planning and coordination.”
Lyons emphasized basics such as restrooms, concessions and elevators will be fully functional on Sept. 21.
The vast majority of bleacher seats are in place, while the 500 chairback seats for club seating have yet to be installed. The first four rows, which will house a disabled seating area, have yet to be completed.
ISU is currently working with a loose number of 13,000 for seating capacity.
“We will wait to publish that number until we get a seat audit done,” Lyons said. “We’ve taken so many seats out of that stadium. Now that we’re adding them back, when we publish that number we want it to be an accurate number.”
The Main Street-facing entrance is beginning to take shape.
“I think people will really be impressed with the clean look at the front of the stadium,” said Lyons. “The big arch in the middle that will be the focal point is a spectacular feature, and the simple, but elegant Hancock Stadium sign will really stand out.”
Work continues on the suite area and an upper level that will hold game operations and a press area.
All of the 500 club seats have been sold and the five (of seven) suites that were made available to the public have been committed. Season tickets sales are up, according to Lyons, but exact numbers were not available.
Lyons frequently hears comments about the Hancock construction.
“It’s such a significant building for not only the athletic department, but the campus and community,” he said. “Every day I run into somebody who asks about it and is excited about it. It’s a can’t-wait-to-see-it attitude. It will be fun when we open that thing up and have a great crowd on Sept. 21.”