Dix Stadium has new look and feel to compete in MAC

Douglas Gulasy

After 14 years, Kennedy sums up stadium with one word: awesome

When Director of Athletics Laing Kennedy arrived at Kent State in 1994, he knew Dix Stadium would need some work.

The stadium, built in 1970, had seen little improvement since its construction. It had no lights and temporary bleachers on the student side of the stadium. The field was grass with water close to the surface underneath, often causing the perennially bad football team to play its games in the mud.

“It was an embarrassment,” Kennedy says now. “(If) you get a dull gray day and a not very good team playing in mud, who wants to come? There’s nothing there.”

Nearly 15 years later, Kennedy sees a different Dix Stadium after about $14 million worth of renovations, phased mostly over the past two summers.

Previous years brought lights, FieldTurf and new student bleachers. Last year the press box was updated. This summer, the main entrance was redone and the south end zone bleachers were removed for a grassy sloped area, pillars with banners of each Mid-American Conference team and, the crowning jewel, a Daktronics high-definition video scoreboard.

“Awesome,” Kennedy called the renovations. “That’s the word I use. You walk into new renovated Dix Stadium and you say, ‘Wow, that’s pretty good.'”

Kennedy said he is glad about the changes, and now he expects the new stadium to change some things for the athletic department.

Increased revenue

Renovations at other stadiums around the Mid-American Conference have helped various athletic departments increase their revenue, and Kennedy said he expects the same to happen at Kent State.

Ball State’s Scheumann Stadium was renovated prior to the 2007 season. Among the $14.5 million worth of renovations was the addition of club seats and suites, which Tom Collins, Ball State athletic director said has helped the Cardinals’ financial situation.

“We’ve now given ourselves an income stream every year that we didn’t use to have,” Collins said. “So it makes it easier to reinvest into the program.”

At Dix Stadium, the Blue and Gold Loge and the President’s Loge, which were renovated prior to last season, serve as club and suite seating. Kennedy said this had helped the athletic department’s revenue, and he added the first level of the press box may be used as club or suites in the future.

Also, he anticipates increased support from corporations because of the HD video scoreboard.


Here are the records of various Mid-American Conference teams since the last renovations were done to their stadiums, including this season.

The year renovations were completed is in parentheses.

&bull Ball State (2007): 9-6 (5-2 Mid-American Conference) – made bowl game in 2007

&bull Bowling Green (2007): 9-6 (6-2) – made bowl game in 2007

&bull Central Michigan (2006): 19-11 (13-2) – 2006 and 2007 MAC Champions

&bull Ohio (2006): 15-13 (11-5) – 2006 MAC East Champion

&bull Miami (2005): 15-23 (12-11) – 2007 MAC East Champion

“(The scoreboard) is a major improvement for corporate sponsorship,” Kennedy said. “We can now put your message at football games (and) at basketball games. We can really give you a package now as a corporate entity.”


Attendance at Dix Stadium won’t increase simply because of the renovations, based on other MAC schools’ experiences.

Ball State’s attendance dropped by nearly 2,000 people per game last season, despite the Cardinals’ renovations.

Ohio University’s Peden Stadium has undergone $7.25 million worth of renovations since 1999 and is widely recognized as one of, if not the best stadium in the MAC. However, the Bobcats’ average attendance was higher in 2001 (20,897) when the Bobcats went 1-10 than it was in 2006 (16,724) when all renovations had been completed and the Bobcats made a bowl game.

One way renovations can help attendance is through nationally televised games. Collins said the Scheumann Stadium renovations have attracted television networks. Ball State had its fourth-largest crowd ever last Friday to see the Cardinals play Navy in a game televised on ESPN.

Ohio hosted Pittsburgh in a nationally televised game in 2005, and the Bobcats had their largest crowd ever with 24,545 people.

“We don’t have another game in here that rivals that one,” Jason Farmer, Ohio assistant athletic director said. “It was indescribable. We were packed to the gills and (had) a great, great atmosphere. Not only were we full, but the fans were excited. They were into every second of the game. It was amazing.”

The Flashes’ home game Nov. 12 may potentially be televised on ESPN2, and Kennedy said he hopes to have more national television opportunities in the future.

Still, Kennedy recognizes it will take more than national television and renovations to boost the Flashes’ attendance, which averaged 8,999 last season.

“(Renovations) can help and can be a short-term spike,” he said. “Then if you take advantage of that short-term spike with a really good team, you can sustain it. Facilities alone doesn’t equal great attendance or a great program. But it sure helps.”

An improved program

It could be just coincidence, but other MAC schools have found success in the past almost immediately after their stadiums were renovated.

Ohio won the MAC East in 2006 after Peden Stadium’s renovations were completed. Ball State made a bowl game last season after its renovations were finished and is a favorite to win the conference this season. Central Michigan has won two straight MAC championships after its latest upgrade.

So what is it: coincidence or correlation?

“There may not be documented proof of (renovations improving team performance), but I think it’s hard to deny,” Farmer said. “I’ll even kind of broaden it in that sense, just to say physical change, I think, leads to a different kind of mental state with your student-athletes, with your fan base, with your administration.

” … The Cleveland Indians built a new stadium, sold it out for eight years (and) made it to the World Series. So I think it’s hard to deny. I’m a huge advocate for physical change for that exact reason.”

Doug Martin, Kent State football coach said team improvement can come from renovations because better players are attracted to nicer venues. He said he thinks the Dix Stadium renovations will help for that reason.

“When recruits come in and watch us play and they get to see that big Jumbotron scoreboard, the new entrances and those things, the new Varsity ‘K’ room, that’s going to be a great selling point for us,” Martin said. “It’s been much needed around here for a long time.”

No matter what happens after the renovations, Kennedy said he’s glad they were done.

“It’s much more than investing in Kent State football,” Kennedy said. “It’s making an investment into the quality of excellence of Kent State University (and) feeding on that.”

Contact assistant sports editor Douglas Gulasy at [email protected].