CARBONDALE – The dream of a new football stadium at SIUC may have seemed farfetched at one time, but fans including alumni Greg Cook have seen it is no longer just a dream.
“The first words or thoughts that come to mind for me are ‘Wow. We did it. We actually did it,” Cook said.
Cook was one of several speakers at the Saluki Stadium opening ceremony on Tuesday. Fans were able to see the completed stadium including the new high-tech turf, video scoreboard and new seating.
The event included a reception, a ribbon cutting and words from members of the SIU Board of Trustees, administrators, students and alumni. U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, State Sen. David Luechtefeld and State Rep. Mike Bost were also in attendance.
Before the speeches, the team and the band made what will be their new game-day trek from the SIU Arena and into stadium through south entrance.
Wide receiver Joe Allaria said the team is humbled by the stadium and proud to call it home. Head football coach Dale Lennon said the Saluki Way project is one of the main factors in him becoming a Saluki.
It truly has been impressive watching everything come together,” Lennon said.
He said he cannot wait to hear the fans support the team and hopes there is a sense of pride of what was accomplished.
Jeff Troutt of Christo-pher graduated from SIUC in 1961 and has been a football season ticket holder since 1970. He said he was impressed with the new stadium and is eager for the season to begin.
“So far, so good,” Troutt said. “I’m very pleased with it. I think it’s going to be an enjoyable place to watch football.”
The alumni, SIUC students, former head coach Jerry Kill, Lennon, Mayor Brad Cole and the Carbondale City Council and the construction workers were among those thanked by the speakers.
SIU President Glenn Poshard also thanked Board of Trustees Chair Roger Tedrick for be a leader in getting the project approved and for having the idea to build the stadium and renovate the SIU Arena at the same time.
“Because of that decision, this project has come on time and under budget,” Poshard said.
Athletic Director Mario Moccia also made special mention of Saluki Athletics, the architects and former Chancellor Sam Goldman for their commitment to the project. He said that there is still a lot of work to be done on Saluki Way but hopes that the fans will enjoy the result of a lot of hard work from a lot of people.
SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng said it is “remarkable to think that the groundbreaking for Saluki Way just 17 months ago” and stressed the important role athletics play at a university by bringing the campus and the region together. She also said first impressions for prospective students are important and the new stadium will do just that.
“The results are outstanding and I hope you are as proud of the accomplishment as we are,” Cheng said.
Marcus King, president of the SIUC Undergraduate Student Government, said the student athletes finally have a stadium that honors their hard work and dedication.
“Not only does SIU have the best athletes, but now it has the best sports venue,” King said.
Cook, like the other speakers, was mostly ready to see the Salukis bring in some more win-ning seasons and maybe a national championship or two.
“What a fitting place this will be to hang those banners,” Cook said.