LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — It was just Feb. 4 (a day before the University of Louisville announced a postseason ban in basketball) that athletic director Tom Jurich rolled out an ambitious $55 million expansion plan for 18-year-old Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

On Thursday, he announced that department fundraisers are nearing the halfway mark of that price tag, a milestone they might well pass during an event in conjunction with the spring football game on Saturday. As a result, Jurich says the timetable for completion might speed up, too.

Jurich had originally hoped to have the work completed by the time Louisville plays host to Notre Dame in the 2019 season-opener, but Thursday allowed that opening the expansion before the 2018 season also “would be nice. I don’t know what the construction company is going to say.”

“We want to be very aggressive in getting it moving,” Jurich said. “We don’t want this to be a project that lingers on. We’d have to be over the halfway point, at least. Our goal was to have it by 2019, but I’d like to move it up.”

IMAGES | A look at the proposed Papa John's Cardinal Stadium expansion

After the expansion, which would create a new seating and suite section to enclose the stadium, seating capacity would go from 55,000 to around 65,000, making it the largest facility in the state. Part of the renovation includes improvements to the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex, which would bring it to 40,000 square feet.

“The mistake we made in the KFC Yum! Center was we didn’t do enough premium boxes, we only did them in the South end zone, and we should’ve done them on both sides because they’re so popular,” Jurich said. “I remember when we were down at the Dallas Cowboys game and Jerry Jones showed us around that stadium, he mentioned he wished he had done more field level suites. I should’ve listened better. I think we could’ve sold a lot more of those. The club seating sales have been great. The enthusiasm has been fantastic, and it’s been great to see. The community has really reached out to help us.”

Mark Jurich, the son of the AD and Louisville’s senior associate athletic director for development, said that nine of the centerpiece field-level suites have been spoken for, with one more having gotten a commitment and two others set aside in a naming rights deal. Those suites require a one-time donation of $200,000, then a yearly rental fee. Also, he said that more than half of the premium boxes in the new North end zone seating section have been sold.

“It really is an overwhelming response,” he said. “We launched this campaign in early February and to see the way fans have come out and the passion they have for their football team and their coach, to me, is really remarkable.”

Mark Jurich said the focus hasn’t been on just adding seats, but on improving the overall experience, especially for those fans willing to pay top dollar. Jurich said he’s gotten positive feedback on the club seating ideas, as well as on the terrace that is planned for that end zone, similar to the one on the other end of the stadium.

“We look at some of the challenges that all of college football is facing, trying to get fan attendance back up, when you look at the trends,” Mark Jurich said. “We’ve looked at what different folks are doing, we’ve looked a lot at the professional model from a technology standpoint, being able to provide unique amenities, in-seat service, great WI-fi, things like that. We spend a lot of time on it, and that will be a nice chunk of the budget. We want it to be one of the premier seating areas in college football.”

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