Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor
When Murray State fans file into Roy Stewart Stadium next week for the inaugural game of the 2017 football season, they will be greeted with a gamut of facility upgrades designed to give both players and fans a revolutionized gameday experience.
Thanks to contributions by the Racer Club and miscellaneous donors, the stadium will now feature a new video and instant replay board to replace their previous scoreboard, measuring 18 feet and nine inches high and 33 feet and six inches wide.
In addition, the stadium will now play home to new LED lighting that will more than double the lighting levels in the stadium when compared to the previous lights. But more importantly, said Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities Brock Rydecki, the switch to LED lighting will serve to reduce maintenance costs while also improving cost-efficiency within the stadium operation.
“Our lighting levels were very bad before, and the maintenance of those lights was very expensive,” Rydecki said. “So really it was a combination of us needing new lights because they’ve been around for a number of years, and we were spending a lot of money on upkeep every year. So going with a full LED, we’re going to save probably 60 to 70 percent power-wise.”
Other parts of the stadium receiving a facelift include upgrades to the Racer Room, a new track surface, cleaner stadium walls and surfaces, a new stadium PA system and updated facility branding throughout the stadium.
Football Head Coach Mitch Stewart said the facility upgrades have had an immediate effect on his team, saying that he has noticed a boost in team morale since seeing the newest amenities. Stewart also said the upgrades will come in handy as a valuable recruiting tool.
New track surface going down today thanks to Beynon Sports Surfaces! pic.twitter.com/ViHoca7hAP
— Racer Athletic Ops (@MSUAthletic_Ops) May 15, 2017
“Hats off to Dr. Davies and Mr. Ward [Director of Athletics] because it was needed for recruiting purposes,” Stewart said. “Recruiting is what it is, whether you like it or not. It’s the haves and the have nots, and if you have not, then you aren’t going to get the players.”
These facility upgrades stretch far past the walls of the football stadium, with other courts and fields across campus receiving makeovers of their own. Cutchin Field, home of the Racer’s women’s soccer team, received new dugouts for their team this offseason. The courts inside of Racer Arena, the CFSB Center and the practice court in the Gene W. Ray Center are currently being resurfaced and refloored. Passersby can even witness some additional branding within Bennie Purcell Tennis Courts, Racer Field and Reagan Field.
— Racer Athletic Ops (@MSUAthletic_Ops) June 26, 2017
One major renovation that has not yet reached completion is the addition of a new video board in the CFSB Center. The new board, which is expected to be installed in the coming weeks, will replace the current scoreboard in the center of the arena–a commodity that has become somewhat of an institution for Racer fans since its inception in 1998. But all good things must come to an end, and the prospective video board will revolutionize the fan experience. With a nine-screen display–four screens for video, four for stats and a wraparound advertisement screen–as well as several screens housed in the corners of the arena, fans will have the opportunity to view Murray State basketball like never before.
“I would say that we will probably have the biggest with the most displays in an arena in the conference once we get this set up,” Rydecki said.
But these unprecedented renovations come with a price. The combined cost of the upgrades is estimated to be approximately 1.9 million dollars, but Rydecki believes streamlining the technology in the facilities will help to compensate for the high price tag.
“A lot of the upgrades will see a return on our investment, especially with the lights. We’ll see a return there,” Rydecki said. “We’ll have some return on investment from the change from our old video board to LED, but nothing that is wowing.”
With the Racer’s football team scheduled to compete next week for their first game in Roy Stewart Stadium since the upgrades, Racer fans are surely hoping the acclaimed sports mantra “Look good, play good” comes to fruition in their season opener.