By Wesley Wright
“We really want this to be a special year for Tiger fans when they visit Tiger Stadium. We have tried to look at all aspects of what fans want so we can improve the overall experience in the venue. The new capabilities that we will be able to implement on game day will only enhance what is already the best atmosphere in college football.”
Tiger Stadium. Otherwise known as Death Valley.
A nightmare if you don’t wear the purple and gold. Or if you’ve made the choice of cheering for another team, it is often labeled college football’s most intimidating venue. It’s a place that has even rattled legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
“Baton Rouge happens to be the worst place in the world for a visiting team,” Bryant once said of taking the Crimson Tide to Tiger Stadium. “It’s like being inside a drum.”
But for Tiger fans, it’s a little slice of heaven. A Saturday night in Death Valley is an experience like no other, and with the new additions to the south end zone stadium opening this season more Tiger fans will be able to join in on the fun than ever before.
It took 1,400 tons of steel, 25,000 yards of concrete, and $80 million, but the expansion was well worth it. All of the suites were sold out before a single drop of concrete was poured. About 1,400 general admission seats and 3,000 club seats have been added, along with 66 suites and two shiny new video boards in each corner of the end zone.
Louder Than Ever
All in all, about 8,000 more fans will be able to watch LSU in person this season. With the official capacity up to 102,321, Tiger Stadium is now the sixth largest football stadium in the country.
It obviously has an effect on the players. LSU left tackle La’el Collins could’ve left for the NFL this past season, but, among other things, he wanted to experience the new additions.
“They expanded our stadium, making it even louder, even bigger,” said Collins. “Why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that one more time?”
Head coach Les Miles agrees with his senior left tackle.
“When you consider how loud that place has been and now with that closed inside kind of capturing the noise, I think it’s going to be exciting,” he explained. “It was the finest venue in college football, and I think it’s just taken another step.”
LSU has also taken steps with the SEC to help improve fan experience both inside and outside the stadium.
As part of a league-wide initiative to make game day more enjoyable for fans, LSU has taken additional measures beyond stadium expansion.
Most eye-catching are three new video boards inside Death Valley. Two new 40’x70’ HD screens hang from the South end zone, with the ability to operate independently, opening the door for highlights from around the country and conference as well as in-game updates. Meanwhile, the HD screen in the North end zone – under fire in recent years for the relative viewing-to-advertisement sizes – now has a larger viewing area. All three boards will show footage from around the SEC, as part of the SEC Network, as well as multiple-angle replays during official reviews of plays on the field.
“With the expansion of the south end zone and the additions of the new video and fascia displays, we really want this to be a special year for Tiger fans when they visit Tiger Stadium” said Jason Suitt, LSU’s Director of Fan Experience. “We have tried to look at all aspects of what fans want so we can improve the overall experience in the venue. The new capabilities that we will be able to implement on game day will only enhance what is already the best atmosphere in college football.”
Better flow of traffic – and data
The athletic department also hopes to speed things up for attendees, both in their cars and on their cell phones. With help from consulting group SP Plus Gameday, LSU will introduce a new postgame traffic flow, with southbound contraflow on Nicholson, as well as adding 2,300 parking spaces to gameday commuters.
And when those commuters enter Tiger Stadium, they’ll find improved cell phone reception, thanks to a newly-installed Distributed Antenna System (DAS) that will be rolled out during the season.
“We are excited about enhancing our cell service for our fans in and around Tiger Stadium with the Distributed Antenna System we installed,” said LSU Senior Associate Athletics Director Eddie Nunez. “It is a learning process that will be tweaked as we go through the season to get the best service for the fans in the most crowded areas inside and outside the stadium.”
A New Era
To date, the largest crowd ever recorded at Tiger Stadium currently was a whopping 93,374. That was the number of fans in the stands the night the Tigers’ fell to Alabama 21-17 in 2012. Tiger fans will easily smash that record when they christen the new additions on September 6th against Sam Houston State.
But the new expansions mean more then just fans in the stands. It’s about what those fans bring. They add to the entire game day experience. Having more fans to share the game with adds to the ambience of Death Valley. Creating an energy that could possibly propel the Tigers to victory, and make a night in Tiger Stadium all that much more nightmarish for the opponents.
There is excitement all around LSU about the new expansions. Making Tiger Stadium even louder and more intimidating than ever before is a blood rushing thought. But should it go farther? Will there be any more additions to the stadium?
That’s not in the cards according to LSU athletic director Joe Alleva.
“Unless things change significantly, I can’t ever see us needing [another] addition.