Improving Kenan

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Without jerseys or helmets, two men are changing the way North Carolina football fans will remember the Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium this season and in the future.

Norwood Teague and Michael Beale, operating out of the sports marketing headquarters at Carmichael Auditorium, have been working together to improve the atmosphere and appearance of Kenan beginning with the home opener, Sept. 17 against Wisconsin.

"In the coming season you're going to see some aesthetic changes outside the stadium," said Teague, the associate athletic director of sports marketing. "We're going to have some former players being recognized as well as great games and also a lot of Carolina logos. It's really a new approach."

Rather than use banners to commemorate the history of Carolina football, some permanent vinyl displays will be used along the exterior of the stadium on its concrete walls. Notable players like Lawrence Taylor could become part of that arrangement along with upset victories like the 31-28 win against Miami last season.

Some changes have also been discussed regarding the inside of the stadium.

"We're currently making the decision whether to put some bowl history into the stadium and redo our retired jerseys as well," Teague said.

The most likely possibility is that the retired jerseys would be accommodated to share the same space along the upper deck with a representation of Carolina's 25 bowl game appearances.

"One of the things we really want to do is recognize our rich tradition and bowl history," said Beale, the director of sports marketing. "We're trying to figure out which way is going to be the most efficient way to do it and the most fan-friendly."

A decision will be made this week regarding whether that idea will be implemented for this season, if at all.

In two or three years, another possibility for Kenan would be the addition of LED boards -- otherwise known as ribbon boards -- like the ones installed in the Dean E. Smith Center (at a cost of approximately $480,000) last year.

"We would light that thing up," Teague said. "We would do real-time stats, really some neat stuff."

If the ribbon boards are approved, they would probably replace the two rectangular scoreboards currently in place along the upper decks of the stadium. However, it's not as simple as merely replacing the old with the new.

"You have to buy expensive equipment to be able to do that," Teague said. "You've gotta have people trained that are on top of it, because they can't make constant mistakes or else its law of diminishing returns."

The most significant structural change to the stadium could happen within the next five years.

Although the topic has only been discussed at meetings, there is the possibility of expansion regarding seating in the opening along the east end of the stadium by the video board. The last expansion project occurred in 1998 when 8,000 seats were added to the stadium.

If additional seating is approved in the future, Teague said luxury suites could definitely become part of that project. However, construction along the east end would probably require that some of the pine trees be removed to accommodate that change.

"I don't think anybody's excited about [removing trees], so you gotta make sure you're doing the right thing," Teague said, adding that the trees surrounding Kenan add to the "allure" and "romance" of the stadium.

"You can make some big mistakes doing these things. You can get way ahead of yourself and waste a lot of money. You got to be smart about how you do it," he said.

Teague and Beale are faced with the same predicament regarding the addition of advertising -- also referred to as "signage" -- at the stadium.

"People feel strongly that we should remain signless -- or ‘pure' -- but the financial realities are there," Teague said. "We've talked about doing it and doing it in a real balanced way. We're still exploring it."

According to Beale, nothing regarding signage has been finalized and they are still in the "information-gathering" process. The inclusion of advertising may or may not happen this year.

"We very much want to keep it to where it doesn't overwhelm fans when they come in. That's very much in the front of our minds through this whole process," Beale said.

One of the most common requests from fans regarding Carolina football has to do with game-day atmosphere.

"The point we're trying to get across to people this year is coming to Kenan Stadium and making a day of Carolina football," Beale said.

Tar Heel Town, a festival on campus that begins three hours before every home game, was introduced in 1997 to help develop Carolina's game-day atmosphere.

"I would say in the last three years it's quadrupled in size," said Teague about Tar Heel Town. "We've made progress in that area to have a really strong activity for people to be involved in before the game."

However, there are UNC fans that would prefer it wasn't an alcohol-free event.

"There's this myth that you can't tailgate in Chapel Hill on Saturdays, and we're doing everything in our power to eliminate that," Beale said.

With the limited amount of parking near the stadium, there isn't much that can be done regarding tailgating on one's own terms.

"We're always thinking about new ways to open doors for more tailgating. We would love to have people be able to park on the sidewalks again," Teague said.

Until the mid ‘90s, UNC fans were allowed to park along the sidewalks and celebrate before and after games near their vehicles.

Teague and Beale said they will continue to work together during the remaining months before the start of football season while they plan Kenan's future.

"Summer's not a downtime for us at all," Teague said. "If we treat summer as a downtime we'll be in trouble by the time fall gets here with what we do."

(Photos courtesy Getty Images)

Inside Carolina Top Stories