Since its inception in 1998, Crusader football has never had a place to call its own.
However, with the opening of the new Crusader Stadium, the team will finally experience its first true home game when it hosts Wesley College Sept. 21.
The stadium will have about 7,800 seats and is expandable to a capacity of 10,000 with standing room areas. Most of the seating on the home side is reserved, with chair back seats and bench seating that will serve as general admission.
Grassy berms will be available behind both end zones where students with a valid ID can catch the action for free.
The stadium will also feature the largest scoreboard among Division III colleges, which Vice President for Athletics Randy Mann thinks will greatly improve the game day experience for fans.
“We have a beautiful electronics video board that is going to be certainly pleasing to the eye, which will create an environment that we’ve never experienced before,” he said.
No one should go hungry on game day with four concession stands—three on the home side and one on the visitors’ side. The center stand on the home side will primarily be used to sell merchandise.
Each stand will be equipped with monitors so that fans can still watch the game while they wait.
Concessions will feature unique items including a specialty hot dog called The Cru Dog and even purple Blue Bell vanilla ice cream.
While the primary purpose of the facility is to house football games, Mann believes that the stadium along with the conjoined student union building will play an even greater role for the university.
“It’s going to impact the entire school and campus and the entire student life with the stadium plus the new student union building,” Mann said. “I think it creates an excitement that we haven’t experienced since I’ve been around here.”
The decision to join the stadium and the student union building was partially to ensure that both were centrally located on campus, but Director of Campus Construction Scott Dodd believes that it also gives an aesthetically pleasing feel to the structure.
“Part of that vision was to be able to join this project up and have a prominent backdrop on the visitors’ side because I think at most stadiums, the visiting side just doesn’t get a lot of attention,” Dodd said. “By using the student union as a backdrop … it kind of creates a very prominent feel and a very classy look for our stadium.”
The new student union building will be divided into three levels. The first will hold residential dining, which will be moving out of Hardy. It will also feature a Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and an 1845 Grill, which serve as a retail dining area. The bookstore will also be on this level.
The second will serve as the home for student life offices, student organization offices and a new band hall. It will also include common areas with plenty of lounge seating where students can relax.
On the top level will be a banquet hall, which can be divided into as many as five meeting rooms. The banquet hall itself will seat about 800 with smaller rooms seating up to 300.
The hope is that the integration of both buildings will help not only in the recruitment of athletes but will bring in other future students as well.
Freshman Christian studies major Hunter White said the new buildings played a role in his decision to attend UMHB.
“I was definitely stoked when I heard about the new facilities,” White said. “I wouldn’t say the project is the reason I am here at UMHB, but I was intrigued when I heard that there was a new band hall in the making.”
The university will hold an open house Sept. 12 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors will be able to tour the stadium itself along with other areas such as the locker rooms, service level and the press level.
An open practice will be held at 7 p.m. on the new field while concession stands serve bottled drinks and Cru Dogs.
Pregame ceremonies for the Sept. 21 game against Wesley College will begin at 5:30 p.m. with kickoff at 6 p.m.