Minium: Rumors to the Contrary, S.B. Ballard Stadium Will Be Ready for ODU's football opener against Norfolk State
By ODU Athletics
By Harry Minium
The rumor mill has been running overtime lately. The general consensus among a lot of folks is that Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium won’t be ready in time for the Old Dominion football team to host Norfolk State on Aug. 31.
Some people I’ve talked to haven’t purchased tickets because they are absolutely sure the game will be moved to Norfolk State's Dick Price Stadium. Even some employees of the ODU athletic department, who should know better, have asked me “are we going to play at Norfolk State?”
Stephen Ballard, head of S.B. Ballard Construction, which is overseeing the stadium construction, has also heard the rumors. He went to dinner recently at Aldo’s Ristorante in Virginia Beach, a place he and his family frequent about as often as Norm Peterson frequented Cheers.
Even there he’s often asked, will the stadium open on time?
“It happened six time the other night,” Ballard said recently.
So when Ballard appeared at a Norfolk Sports Club breakfast on Tuesday, and then the Jamboree that night, he brought a sign with him.
It simply said: “Yes.”
“The stadium will open on time,” Ballard said. “We’re going to play football there on August 31st against Norfolk State and it will be a great game.”
He opened his remarks at both events by holding up the sign. Everyone in the audience knew the question as soon as they saw the answer.
His emphatic "Yes" is confirmed by ODU officials, including athletic director Wood Selig, who when I asked, held the "Yes" sign up with Ballard between events on Tuesday.
It's understandable that some might question whether the stadium might not be ready. Generally, projects of this sort take a year and a half. When James Madison did a massive makeover of its football stadium, it took the school two full years.
It was natural that some people might be skeptical that old Foreman Field could be torn down and replaced by a brand-new, modern stadium in just nine months. I know I was.
S.B. Ballard Construction has worked miracles, but so has ODU. We'll pay tribute a a lot of unsung heroes of the stadium project next week on the odu.edu Web site.
I've toured the building a number of times and clearly and there is a lot of work to be done. So while the seats with will ready, the elevators working and concession stands and restrooms operating, there will be hiccups. Because the stadium has 16,000 new seats, people may have problems finding the right entrance. There is no chance for stadium crew to do a test run, so not everything will click on Aug. 31 as it will down the road.
Expect problems. And please have patience. ODU is doing all it can to make this a pleasant place to watch a game, and no matter how many hiccups, it will be far more pleasant than Foreman Field. Any kinks will be worked out by the second game on Sept. 28, when East Carolina visits.
And one last time, here's Ballard on the stadium.
"No one thought we could do it in nine months, and by that, I mean Old Dominion University and S.B. Ballard," he said. "The University has been a wonderful partner. They've been smart and proactive.
"We always planned for the stadium to open on time. We never considered that it wouldn't open."
ODU had a number of people honored by the Norfolk Sports Club on Tuesday.
Ballard won the big award of the night, when he was presented the Tom Fergusson Memorial Award as the Outstanding Person of the Year in Sports.
ODU men's basketball coach Jeff Jones won a President's Award for leading the Monarchs to a Conference USA championship during a season in which he bravely battles prostate cancer.
Former football star Oshane Ximines was the Leigh Williams Memorial Award as the outstanding college athlete in 2018. Ximines is, of course, in training camp with the New York Giants, so his Mom, Dane McDonald, accepted in his absence. Her acceptance speech was the shortest of a very long evening. "On behalf of Oshane and myself, I wish to thank you for this award," she said.
Senior point guard Ahmad Caver was honored as the outstanding senior athlete at ODU with the Thomas L. Scott Award at a previous sports club meeting.
Contact Minium: firstname.lastname@example.org