By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — So, your Saturday plans are set. Football season is finally here, and you’re looking forward to a splendid September evening at Scott Stadium.
More than nine months have passed since the Cavaliers played at home, and much has changed at the stadium since then. You may walk out Saturday night buzzing about the new videoboard, but that’s not the only part of the game-day experience that’s different this season.
For starters, you’re welcome to bring a bag or backpack to the game. But when you’re ready to enter, you’ll be directed to the entry point farthest to the right at your gate. There, stadium personnel will check your bag or backpack.
Gates open two hours before kickoff, and the entry process goes more quickly if you don’t bring a bag or backpack. If you do, however, make sure it doesn’t contain any of these prohibited items.
OK, you’re inside the stadium now. As you head to your seat, look toward the north end. What you see towering over the Hill may surprise you. The stadium’s new videoboard, at 1,824 square feet, is more than three times larger than the old one (588 square feet), which was installed in 1998.
And that’s not all. The board’s resolution and brightness have improved, and it uses a 16×9 widescreen format.
The upgrades, paid for by CBS College Sports Properties as part of its agreement with the University, cost $2.4 million. They also include LED wings that will feature out-of-town scores, individual and team statistics from the UVa game, and messages from sponsors. Moreover, modifications have been made to improve the stadium’s sound system.
In general, you’ll find it easier to follow the game as you move around the stadium. See those televisions on the concourses? They’ll show the UVa game live, as well as key information — quarter, time remaining, score, down and distance — in a banner across the top of the screen.
On the right column of the screen, rotating panels will display game statistics and ACC standings, along with information about upcoming games and the Virginia Athletics Foundation. At the bottom of the screen, a banner will display scores from other college games.
At halftime, during timeouts and between quarters, trivia questions for fans will be shown on the TVs, as well as on-field ceremonies. TVs in the suites offer the same features.
With kickoff approaching, you settle into your seat. As in years past, you have the option of renting a stadium seat on game day. But there’s a new option this year: You can order a seat that will be installed for the entire home schedule. For more information, visit www.cavalierseats.com.
The game starts, and your focus turns to the field. You get thirsty. Concession stands can be found around the stadium, but you don’t have to leave the stands to to get a drink.
At a UVa game last season, 45 hawkers might have been working. This season there will be about 55 or 60 at each game, wearing distinctive red aprons and selling soda, water and other drinks around the stadium and in the stands.
Hungry for more than typical stadium fare? A tent at the north end of the stadium, underneath the pergola, will sell specialty food items. The menu will change each game. The special this weekend, with William and Mary in town, is crab cakes. Other concessions will be available at this tent, too.
Want a cigarette? That won’t be as simple as in years past.
Smoking, already prohibited in the stands, now won’t be allowed anywhere at Scott Stadium except a designated area accessed only at the southwest gate.
This change may not please every fan, but it reflects a new policy at the University. Smoking is now prohibited at all UVa athletic facilities.