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Minium: ODU has Tentative Plans to Open S.B. Ballard Stadium to the Public Twice in August

June 05, 2019
By ODU Athletics

By Harry Minium

I’ve worked at Old Dominion University long enough that I've found the best place on campus to eat lunch. Almost no one else goes there, so I can munch on a sandwich among hundreds of empty seats while I watch a miracle slowly unfold in front of me.

At least once or twice a week, I hoof from my office in the University Village half a mile or so to the loge seats at Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.

From the second floor of the Atlantic Bay Football Complex, I’ve been one of the privileged few to see Foreman Field torn down and the new Ballard Stadium rise from the ground up.

It took just two weeks for Foreman Field to come down in late November and early December, and what’s happened since has been amazing.

More than 675 piles were driven and 24 million pounds of concrete poured for the sideline foundation. Nearly 700 pieces of pre-cast concrete were pieced together like a jig saw puzzle to form the stadium itself.

S.B. Ballard Stadium on June 5, 2019

Most than half of the nearly 16,000 new seats are in place. Work has begun on installing three ribbon scoreboards and a new sound system and will soon begin on a massive video board.

By late June, crews from Field Turf will begin installing the new stadium artificial turf. And judging from the new practice field turf, it’s going to pop.

I posted three short videos on social media in the last couple of weeks showing the progress made on the $67.5 million renovation and the videos have been seen more than 14,000 times. Ted Alexander’s stadium updates have also been viewed by thousands.

Tweet to stadium video

The response shows just how much interest there is in the new stadium, and how lucky I’ve been to have a ringside seat.

But videos don’t do the new stadium justice. It has to be seen to be appreciated. With two decks of seating and a press box perched 95 feet into the sky, the west side is an imposing structure. It’s nearly twice as tall as was the west side of Foreman Field.

Wouldn’t you also like the chance to scope out the stadium, to sit in seats and check out the new rest rooms and concessions?

Of course you would. And you likely will get the chance.

Jason Chandler and Carolyn Crutchfield, who head athletic promotions, are working to give you two opportunities.

No promises here, but ODU is hoping to open the stadium twice in August. Chandler and Crutchfield hope to announce stadium open house date details by mid July, once a substantial completion date has been determined.

S.B. Ballard construction workers have performed miracles in getting ODU's football stadium ready for this season.

If it works out, and barring the unforeseen it surely will, anyone can come. Those of you who don’t yet have tickets can scope out seats and pay right on the spot. If you’re not interested in tickets, come anyway. Coach Bobby Wilder and the football team will be there to greet you, along with senior ODU athletic officials.

Good seats will be available on June 15th, when the current seating process for current season ticket holders is done.

Why good seats? in part because ODU has 2,300 more sideline seats than it had at Foreman Field. And unlike the old stadium, every seat will be a good one.

The stands are angled up to allow fans to feel they’re right on top of the action. The sideline seats are also much closer to the field, and at the ends of the stadium, the stands are angled inward so that you’re facing the center of the field.

Also, some big donors to ODU haven’t purchased as many seats as in the past because of seat membership fees. And to refresh your memory, we miss-named the fees. They should be known as scholarship fees because every dime goes directly to fund scholarships of all ODU’s sports teams.

Head to the Web site below if you want to see how much tickets are in each section of the stadium. No donation is required.

S.B. Ballard Stadium seat selection map

Suggestion here: if you’re on a budget, check out the north end zone. There are tickets for $99 apiece, which are among the least-expensive tickets in FBS.

If you want sideline seats, and don’t mind a little sun, head to the east side, where tickets are less expensive and a ton of good seats remain.

Regardless, seats are available on both sides of the stadium without a membership fee.

ODU's new stadium is a much larger and more impressive facility than was Foreman Field.

The question I’m most asked about the stadium is will it be done in time? I wondered myself when the process began. Everyone was whispering that there’s no way it can happen.

It just didn’t seem possible.

Tearing down and reconstructing two sides of a stadium would usually take about 18 months. It took James Madison University two years to do a similar, but less ambitious, stadium reno.

But Stephen Ballard compressed that schedule to eight months and the stadium will open on time on Aug. 31, when the Monarchs host Norfolk State.

All the bells and whistles might not be in place, but should be when ODU hosts East Carolina three weeks later.

That’s because Ballard’s employees have worked hard and with a sense of camaraderie. 

I’ve seen it from the first day they began tearing down the old stadium, when workers offered bricks to people watching the demo. I often chat with Ballard’s workers and they are proud of what they’re doing.

This stadium should last at least as long as Foreman Field, which stood 82 years. And it’s a signature project for Ballard, the University and City of Norfolk.

These guys know that.

I’ve watched meetings in the end zone where workers clap hands and exchange fist bumps just like a football team. They are truly committed to getting this done.

The east side of the stadium was designed to mimic the look of old Foreman Field, which will be memorialized there. 

How committed? Over the Memorial Day weekend, more than 100 workers were there Friday, Saturday and Sunday. While I was playing with my granddaughter, Audrey, eating barbecue chicken and drinking Spaten beer, they were hard at work in the blazing son.

Chandler says ODU plans to reward those employees. More than 500 employees and families will be guests at the home opener against Norfolk State.

They deserve it. Like I said, they’re performing a miracle.

Contact Minium: hminium@odu.edu