Bear Down: New environment, excitement expected at Arizona Stadium

Wildcats prepare for season opener

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - With less than 24 hours to kickoff, Wildcat fans are ready for a "new era" of Arizona Football.

But, the fun started Friday as fans filled Main Gate Square for the 13th season of 'Bear Down Fridays.' That's where Robert Rodriguez was in his red and blue, ready for the season.

"We got a great coach, so it's a new era, we're expecting high things," said Rodriguez.

"New Coach, new season, it's going to be a great time," said Michael Baker, getting ready to enjoy the first weekend of the season with his family. His daughter, Madelyn, is a junior at the university.

"I just think that being a part of the student section is something you can't experience anywhere else," said Madelyn Baker.

The changes, won't just be on the sideline with new Head Coach Kevin Sumlin. Athletic Director David Heeke said the stadium experience deserves some serious excitement.

"New opportunities for our fans throughout the stadium," said Heeke. "We've addressed food, location of tickets, ticket pricing, the way we do our entire game day and included in that is the opportunity to offer beer and wine sales throughout the entire stadium."

Heeke said with the addition of beer and wine sales, the department has made sure to do so, responsibly.

"We have certainly planned and put together a really good operational procedure about how we are going to handle this," said Heeke. "We've contracted with third-party security, professionally-trained monitors, professionally-trained servers, licensed servers, those experts in the business so we can do this the appropriate way."

Fans will see a renovated east side concourse, with updated seating, concessions, restrooms and entry-ways. There will also be new patios for fans to stand in the student section to watch the action on the field. But, Heeke said there are still some areas needing work.

"Everything that needs to functionally done will be. We have a couple of areas that we will continue to work through the next few weeks to finish, but the stadium will be 100-percent functional," said Heeke.

"We're going to work all night, we'll be ready and the stadium will open," Heeke said. "It's in a good place right now, with any big project, it comes right to end. But, we're ready to open the gates tomorrow."

The gates will be open to tens of thousands of fans. The athletic department said the ticket office has sold about 6,000 more season tickets this year, than last season.

As of Friday afternoon, Tucson News Now was told the office was approaching 50,000 tickets sold for Saturday's game. The stadium's capacity is 53,646.

"The environment is going to be electric, there's a whole new season, new atmosphere. People are just really excited," said Baker.

The University of Arizona Police Department said it is ready for that increase in people. There will be roughly 100 parking and transportation staff members supervising traffic and making sure the flow of things is going smoothly.

"I think every year out staff works so hard to get ready to look for ways to make this the best environment in college football. We've tackled a lot of things this year, so I'm ready to kick it off and watch it all unfold," said Heeke.

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