Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


A look into what’s ahead in year two at FAU Football Stadium

Just 12,044 fans showed up to witness the Owls only win of last season, a 38-35 victory over UAB at FAU Football Stadium on November 26. The first home game on Oct. 15 drew 29,103. Photo by Michelle Friswell.

Owls players say the grass is greener on the other side of the field for FAU football’s new stadium compared to its former one.

And less messy, too.

So even after a 20-0 shutout loss last October against Western Kentucky in the first ever game in the new digs, the disturbing image of the old home away from home still lingers for players. Center Andrew Czuprynski remembers Lockhart Stadium all too well.

“Lockhart was just down in the slumps,” Czuprynski said in embarrassment of the former stadium located 20 minutes from campus. “We got dressed in a tent, like a high school team. Sometimes we couldn’t even shower after the game and [the team] came back all sweaty.”

The field was a hazard. And to Czuprynski, there’s simply no comparing the two facilities.

“Oh yeah,” he said when asked if the new playing surface was any better. “Lockhart, full of dirt. You’d have sand all in your eyes, knee braces, everything. Here, we’ve got a nice field, good grass, our logos look nice on it.”

Senior David Hinds says that last year at a Sun Belt meeting, players from every team were asked to rank the stadiums from best to worst. Lockhart was so bad that opposing players forgot FAU even had a new stadium still voted it in last place.

“It’s just been something that we’ve always wanted,” Hinds said of the FAU’s new home. “All the guys from the other teams in the conference chose our old facility as the worst. I can’t even say how bad it was. We didn’t like Lockhart at all.”

The new stadium means new traditions are being formed in Boca.

“Our little Owl (statue), we touch the hand every time we cross the street and we walk through the breezeway,” Hinds said. “It feels like a real college experience to have all the fans walking through the breezeway, walk across as the band is playing and you enter the stadium, it’s amazing, man. It’s a great feeling.”

Year one of FAU Football Stadium was deemed a success by the athletics department based on the unique circumstances of opening it during the semester.

“I think the stadium was received fantastic by the community,” assistant AD Melissa Dawson said. “We’re going to work hard to get some more events in there that obviously will outreach even more into the community. I think we’ve got a jewel sitting there.”

Still in its infant stage of development, the stadium can still be enhanced further, she admits, declining to go into specific details for improvement.

“Are there some things we can maybe tweak? Absolutely,” Dawson said. “But I think anytime you open a facility with the magnitude of 30,000 seats, there’s going to be an adjustment period involved. I think we adjusted very well within the season last year from game to game and I think that will improve this year as we go along.”

New AD Pat Chun arrived last month from Ohio State, with Big Ten perspective to share.

“I will tell you this as an outsider who’s been in this business for 15 years — you will not go to one campus across this country where they’re not re-evaluating what they do on game day and trying to do it better. So we’re no different than anyone else,” Chun said. “I think every campus has opportunities unique to themselves. I will tell you the place I just came from and the 118 other schools in Division I-A football, everyone looks to do it better than the year before.”

New head coach Carl Pelini recruited all across the country while at Nebraska(24,593 students), a school with less students than FAU (slightly less than 30,000) but a much larger stadium (capacity: 81,067). At FAU, the stakes are not as high coming off an 1-11 season, but with a new stadium, Pelini expects recruiting will come much easier. He laughs after practice one night about how the 30,000 seat venue will aid his sales pitch to high school players.

“It’s a great advantage for us. It helps in all areas, recruiting especially,” he said. “Great place and hopefully we can fill the seats.”

The opening game was a near sellout, with attendance listed at 29,103.  However, as the team continued losing, fan turnout dwindled, ending the season with 15,171 fans for the finale, a game Pelini attended, sitting among fans in the stands.

Craig Angelos, Pelini’s boss for less than three months — and the one man in charge of hiring Pelini — often said last season that as long as 12,000 tickets were sold per game, the athletic department was making enough money to pay off its yearly $2.6 million loan to Regions Bank.

But Chun doesn’t buy into the theory of a week-by-week ticket amount needed. Instead he offers up an analogy about looking at best possible outcomes, not what’s needed to get by.

“I don’t know if you have a car payment or rent payment, but you know what that is. We know the urgency of getting our rent and will do it,” Chun said. “But we’re not looking toward minimums as an organization anymore. We’re looking toward what the maximums are and that’s what we’re going to strive for.”

As for naming rights to the stadium, Chun thinks there’s already companies out there looking to buy in. According to him, the only way to make it happen is to become extremely visible to potential suitors.

“We’ve just got to get in front of them and find out who they are. There is a process to do all these things and I’ve been here for seven days so I’m new to the process,” Chun said. “I’m in the process of getting fully immersed into what prospects are out there for that and how we’re going to get that done.”

After last year’s inaugural season, there were many events, such as the Major League Lacrosse All Star Game and the Battle of Florida football All Star Game in the new stadium. Dawson says there’s more to come for the fall semester and beyond.

“We’re looking at sporting events. We’re looking at concerts,” Dawson said. “Anybody that’s willing to come reach out and talk to us we’re open to discuss what kind of event they’d like to have in there.”

No matter how many additional events are held at the stadium, the primary money maker is FAU football. Chun realizes the importance of a winning program.

“Everybody knows what the goals are. It’s obvious when you’re in sports. We keep score for a reason,” Chun said. “Carl [Pelini] recognizes that. We keep score on a lot of different levels, on the scoreboard, in the classroom, in the community. I know Carl is poised to win on any place we keep score.“

During his interview process, Chun marveled at the positives surrounding FAU, even remarking that president Mary Jane Saunders has “this university on a trajectory that is probably unmatched anywhere in the country.” A stadium with the capacity to expand to 60,000 seats offers a glimpse into the possibility of one day turning the Owls into a national power.

“Everyone talked about the potential for this place,” Chun said. “Our job here is that we’re going to start turning potential into productivity and that’s where we’re focused.”

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