FOOTBALL: Stadium to get new sound system

Michael Casagrande

This fall, Western football is emphasizing everything new surrounding its program.

Along with a new coach and newfound respect following a national championship, the Toppers will have a newer facility when they kickoff the 2003 campaign Aug. 28 against Union College.

A new sound system will be the biggest improvement made to the 17,500 seat home of the Toppers. The old system had fans clamoring for more clarity.

Craig Biggs, associate athletic director for facilities said the new sound system will cost the athletic department around $40,000.

The project is not part of the Diddle Arena renovation project that included the installation of the AstroPlay synthetic turf playing surface installed prior to the 2002 season.

“We felt like the P.A. was our most pressing need,” Biggs said. “We want to do something every year to upgrade and do more than what we’ve done in the past.”

The sound system is expected to be installed by Friday for the Rafferty’s Bowl high school football doubleheader.

A temporary sound system will be used for Wednesday’s Red-White scrimmage and the student social, “I Scream for WKU Football Day.”

Biggs said with the new sound system, routine cosmetic work had to be done to the stadium over the summer. The work included new handrails, new steps and repairs on the new playing surface.

Winning the national title didn’t hurt the football program when it came time to upgrade its facility according to Biggs, but it wasn’t the only factor when it came time to delegate the money.

Fans attending games at Smith Stadium will be hard pressed to forget the Toppers’ championship from a season ago. A large sign on the outside of the stadium and a flag under the American flag will go with the logo on the field to commemorate the school’s first NCAA championship.

“The thing it does is it makes (Smith Stadium) a more fan-friendly environment,” coach David Elson said. “When people come to a game, we are trying to do some things to make it where they want to come back.”

Elson agrees with Biggs when it comes to the athletic department’s willingness to help the program after their banner season.

“We have great leadership here in President (Gary) Ransdell and Dr. (Wood) Selig,” Elson said. “They are always looking at how we can improve things, but obviously, when you win a national championship, they will be a little more willing to help.”

Western is hoping new public address system will lure more fans to Smith Stadium. Western has not averaged more than 10,000 fans per contest since 1997 when the Toppers drew 10,266.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]