The ASU football home opener began much like every other football Saturday for my Sun Devil family. Arrival to our tailgate spot several hours before kick off. The normal set up…tables, grills going, dozens of chairs, televisions, several coolers filled with too many drink choices to count, the abundance of food, corn hole and drinking games, footballs for catch and, of course, our Saturday football season family. Tailgating is as important to my game day as the actual game because it’s part of the tradition. Of course I look forward to ASU football, but the game alone is not how I envision my fall Saturdays. Often, it means reuniting with friends I only see during football season. The hours before each game are time to chat, catch up, cook, eat and drink together. Time for tailgate family bonding.
On Saturday, as kickoff approached, there were conversations about what to expect with the stadium renovation as it was time for the walk into the stadium. For me, this is where things got weird. I haven’t decided yet whether it’s a good, bad, uncomfortable or just different weird. But, it was weird, nonetheless. Before last Saturday, I had walked into Sun Devil Stadium for nearly every home game for 15 seasons. I’d walked into the South end zone entrances so many times, my body was on autopilot, which it turns out was especially helpful on the few occasions where drinks flowed a little more freely at the tailgate. So, when we began the trek toward to the North end zone, it was a little confusing and entering the stadium just didn’t have the familiar feeling of being “home” the way it felt for over a decade. Then came finding the new seats. After over a decade in the South end zone, the perspective of the game from the West side of the stadium, now behind the ASU sideline, was really different. I have been to dozens of football games at other venues and sat in similar seats, but getting used to this in my stadium is going to take time.
Aside from the new vantage point of the field, there is also the group of fans surrounding us. This, too, will take time for adjustment. I’m not saying I don’t like my new perspective and new section crowd. As with anything, change is uncomfortable and people take time to welcome the new. I missed my section 40, to be honest. Even though a small group of us moved together, it still just didn’t feel right. I wanted my seats back. I was raised a sports fanatic and I have no issue with fans standing for the better portion, if not the entire game, in fact I encourage it. In our new home, it seems fans behind us don’t necessarily share the view on fans standing in support. We will see how that progresses as the season continues and we hopefully have more to cheer about than we did against Cal Poly. About now, I know you’re thinking I am complaining and being negative about my seat change. I assure you, I am not. Although it will take some getting used to and I had that tinge of longing for the familiarity of the South end zone, there is one benefit of my section change that far outweighs any of the discomfort: The Double Inferno.
The home opener on Saturday night was the debut of these two new sections hyped throughout the entirety of the Phase 1 renovation. The Double Inferno seats students behind each end zone. Historically, students have been behind the ASU sideline on the East side of the field. I definitely liked this change to the student section. Capturing the excitement and volume of the students and splitting it into two end zones brought the strong crowd support to both ends of the field. It created the ability for the Infernos to cheer back and forth in a competitive nature, bringing higher volume cheering and maybe even getting more of the fans in other sections excited about cheering. This also guarantees a strong presence of gold (or whichever color is designated for fans that game) in each end zone, since students typically follow the chosen game color better than a lot of other fans. The excitement and volume the students bring to the end zone is also an obvious win when opponents are making plays near the end zone much like the “Curtain of Distraction” works in ASU basketball games at Wells Fargo Arena. In addition to typical loud cheering and the “Go! Devils!” cheer headed up by the spirit squad, the students also flashed their cell phones in the Double Inferno, presumably in attempt to bring more distraction to each end zone. Overall, I think there is much potential for students to bring more excitement and uniqueness to the new setup.
After one game in the “new” Sun Devil Stadium, I am still recovering from a bit of feeling like I’m cheating on section 40. However, I am not regretting the change, since it appears to me, that the end zones have found a much more worthy fit in the Double Inferno. As the new Sun Devils offense for this season seems to be a work in progress with only upside potential, so does the experience of making a new section in Sun Devil Stadium feel like home with new memories and traditions.