LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Sometimes the smallest things can bring great joy. Louisville athletics director Vince Tyra expects that will be the case with the U of L athletic association’s latest expenditure – to restore 37,800 lower-bowl seats in Cardinal Stadium to their original red color.
The seats have faded badly and suffered other damage since the stadium’s original construction 21 years ago. The resulting pink seats in the stadium’s lower bowl have been one of the biggest items of complaint Tyra has fielded in his short time in the AD chair.
“That’s probably No. 1 in terms of projects and improvements,” Tyra said. “And when we didn’t include it in the stadium expansion project, that just excited the issue even further. But we found a way to resolve the issue. Pink seats are probably the biggest thing I hear about, and today we got approval to move forward.”
The seats won’t be replaced. The cost for that would run more than $6 million. Instead, U of L approached a company that restores destroyer guns and other equipment for the U.S. Navy, asking about using a similar process on the plastic seats.
It involves pressure washing the seat, sanding it, then essentially using a blow torch to open up pores in the plastic before adding a protective UV coating to slow down fading in the future.
Tears of joy. https://t.co/X39OL60WkK— Michael (@MichaelAFitz) June 10, 2019
The result is a seat that looks like new, as the athletic board saw on Monday, at more than $5 million less than buying new seats.
U of L tested the process last winter on individual seats throughout the lower bowl and on two sections. After watching the wear on the seats closely, they think they’ve found a winner.
“Replacement cost is significant, and we have other projects we’d like to get on, as we noted with volleyball and golf and other facilities,” Tyra said. “So this was a way to get those done and the seats done. We kept looking at what are the ways to do it, and not that we’re chemists, but understanding resin and having spent a little bit of time in the polyethylene world, we figured out a process where you could break down those seats and actually open up the pores of the plastic and then restore it, and not only restore it but make it stronger.”
In general, when seats fade they usually are replaced, or painted, or otherwise coated. This process is something new, and Tyra said it immediately caught the eye of an associate athletic director from East Carolina University, who saw the process at the football stadium and immediately inquired about his school’s facilities.
“We got them looking at it, and they’re dealing with guns on destroyers and other things, more sophisticated projects, but they’ve tested it and believe it can work and after testing it through the winter we think it’s going to work as well,” Tyra said. “There will be other universities looking at it.”
The restored seats are expected to last in the neighborhood of 10 years, at which time the university likely would begin to look at replacing them.
With this project, the seats in the baseball and softball stadiums would be replaced, likely with more traditional folding seats, giving the school replacement seats for the football stadium.
Total cost of the project is $1.2 million, to be financed through a department partner, PNC Bank.
“There’s probably only one thing that could get our fans more excited than going to the College World Series and that’s turning pink seats to red,” Tyra said to the board.
It’s part of a continuing series of improvements to the stadium. At the board meeting last month, U of L approved a $375,000 lobby upgrade, complete with a suspended lit Cardinal logo and other wall graphics, a $140,000 reception area upgrade with dimensional wall panels with gear display, lighted ceiling element and a lit “L” logo, and $110,000 for a team corridor with an NFL display wall, with custom millwork, digitally printed wall graphics and other elements.
The locker room also is getting $255,000 in cosmetic upgrades, with LED lighting and a suspended central element with the Cardinal logo. The projects will be funded through fundraising.
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