Brooks Stadium opened in 2003 for Coastal Carolina University’s inaugural season of football with 6,408 seats.
The stadium featuring artificial teal turf has grown with the program, and is now ready for the Football Bowl Subdivision and a bowl game that is coming in 2020.
The final phase of an expansion plan has essentially been completed, and the seating capacity has been increased to 19,376 with the addition of an upper deck on the west side of the stadium. New suites increase the capacity to about 20,000 spectators.
“We want people to continue to buy in and believe in what we’re trying to accomplish here, as we’ve been trying to do for close to 20 years of this program,” CCU director of athletics Matt Hogue said.
The school was required to expand its stadium in 2017 for its move up from the Football Championship Subdivision to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference, and it added nearly 5,800 seats to bring the seating capacity to about 15,500.
Construction began in early March 2017 and the first phase included adding seats to completely connect seating on both sides to the field house, expanding the lower sections on both sides toward the south scoreboard, and expanding the upper deck on the east side (press box side) to match the length on the lower deck.
The second phase this year included adding a large enclosed luxury suite that can house about 350 people with an accompanying 230 outdoor club seats, and adding an upper deck to the west side with additional features such as new entrances.
“This is the culmination of about a three-year project to get this facility completed and we are now in that final stage and looking forward to kind of getting back to business of no more construction sites or construction limitations as we go into operating a football season and playing our games,” Hogue said.
There are only decorative additions and finishing touches to be done to the stadium before it is completely ready for the 2019 season opener against Eastern Michigan at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 31.
There are more suites and enclosed experiences on the West side, adding to what’s available in the Marrio & Josh Norman Field House behind the north end zone.
“I think the real crowning part of this is what we have now in terms of premium seating and premium access,” Hogue said. “. . . It’s something that’s going to provide an experience that we haven’t had here before. You’re right on the 50-yard line, you’ve got outdoor club seats you can purchase, you can have access to the suite, which is an open floor plan. That’s really probably the biggest thing that I think is going to be the real change here, other than obviously more seating.”
The Chanticleer Athletic Foundation is offering tours of the stadium and its amenities in the hopes of enticing people to book suites and purchase season and single-game tickets.
“What [fans] can expect is a completely different place to watch a game,” Hogue said. “. . . [There are] completely different vantage points than ever before, not only in the upper deck but in our premium areas.”
School officials expect the expansion to help the Chanticleers compete in recruiting football players.
“I think it can only assist in the recruiting effort,” Hogue said. “. . . It’s about a lot of these extras. How do you compare to your competition? How do you compare to those in your conference? So there’s no question that these types of facility upgrades, and then a lot of the other things you’re trying to do in your program too that may be more nuanced or maybe are not as visual sometimes are important to that recruiting process, so we certainly hope with this expansion and everything that goes with that will help us in the recruiting. I certainly believe it will.”
Brooks Stadium is now ready to host the new Myrtle Beach Bowl in 2020, which will be the only bowl game in South Carolina. The university is working with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and ESPN Events on the game.
“We really are starting to get into high gear on looking ahead to the Myrtle Beach Bowl in 2020,” Hogue said. “That’s going to be a big deal, not only for our area but it’s going to be a big deal for the university to be able to host such an event.”
First, the stadium is hosting the 30th CNB Kickoff Classic high school preseason jamboree on Aug. 16 for the first time in many years. “We want to be as strong a community partner as we can, so certainly anything we can do [for high school football] that’s feasible . . . we want to be able to do it if we possibly can.”
Coastal is trying to improve and add to the atmosphere at the stadium on game days, including moving the student tailgate area closer to the stadium. The alumni association will continue to entertain at Blanton Park in front of the Edward M. Singleton Building.
The team’s coaches and players have expressed excitement about performing in the expanded stadium.
“If you drive up 544 there you see it, it sticks out to you. You’re like, ‘Whoa.’ It’s the first thing you notice,” CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “. . . Our recruits have definitely taken notice when they come on campus.
“We’ve got to make sure we do our job to get people in here that want to see us play.”
Senior defensive tackle Sterling Johnson, who transferred from Clemson prior to the 2018 season, knows winning will be a key component to filling the expanded stadium.
“You have to win games, that’s what it comes down to,” Johnson said. “It would mean a lot to have it packed out because before I came here I was looking at some of the games on YouTube and I was like, ‘Man, there ain’t nobody there.’ So I think to see that change from 2017 to hopefully mid-2019 season would be great not only for the school but the community.”