RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Richmond Spiders are finally going to play a real home game.
After 82 years using a city-owned stadium about 5 miles from campus for home games, the Spiders will open the $25 million, on-campus Robins Stadium when they play Elon on Saturday.
It’s a move from an 80-year-old cement eyesore in a neighborhood with limited parking to a facility that blends right in on the upscale campus.
“Once you add the people to it, it’s going to make for a great atmosphere,” senior linebacker Eric McBride said of the Spiders’ first on-campus home game since the 1928 season.
Unlike City Stadium, where the seats were so far from the field that it was hard for the fans to create any real atmosphere or noise, the seats at Robins Stadium are very close to the field. The school squeezed all it could into the small area in which it had to build.
“It’s overly exciting for myself and for the guys,” first-year Spiders coach Latrell Scott said. “It’s a great situation for our alumni and for our fans, and mostly for our students on campus. We’re excited to have this thing full of people in red shirts.”
All 8,700 tickets have been sold for the opener, and nearly half — 4,200 — went as part of season ticket packages, athletic director Jim Miller said. That’s an increase of about 2,500 season tickets sold since last year, when Richmond was the defending national champion.
The school has about 2,900 undergraduate students, and 2,200 got tickets, he said.
Now, he hopes they adapt quickly to giving the team a home-field edge.
“They’re there to have a good time, but actually they’re there to help the team win,” he said. “You’ve got the old fuddy duddies like me in the stands who cheer when something nice happens, but … they can get rowdy, get loud, get excited and really create an atmosphere.”
The buzz around campus suggests the students are ready to do their part.
“I was walking around campus today and heard some people asking if the others are going to the pep rally,” McBride said of the spirit-building gathering held on Wednesday night.
“I think they’re excited to have everything on campus and they’re excited just about the football season in general. We’re going to appreciate everyone that comes out there.”
Looking ahead, Scott expects the stadium to help in recruiting, too. Until this year, coaches could only show recruits an artist’s rendering of what the stadium would look like.
Now, recruits will have the chance to actually see the finished product.
“I think it’s a great sell,” Scott said.