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Zable Stadium ready for opening night

  • Headed to their seats
    Headed to their seats  Dan (foreground) and Stuart Dopp, both Class of 1962, were among the hundreds of Tribe football fans who attended the Zable Stadium open house on Sept. 4.  Photo by Jim Ducibella
  • Excited for Tribe football
    Excited for Tribe football  Jeff Barner (left) and his father, Scott, have been long-time season ticket holders. Both endorsed the changes they saw at Zable Stadium during the Sept. 4 open house.  Photo by Jim Ducibella
  • Inside the new Zable Stadium
    Inside the new Zable Stadium  Visitors to the Zable Stadium open house on Sept. 4 tour one of the boxes that were part of the renovation project.  Photo by Jim Ducibella
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Dan and Stuart Dopp joke that they have attended sporting events at William & Mary for what seems longer than they can remember.

“Since Thomas Jefferson was a student,” quipped Dan Dopp, to which Stuart Dopp quickly added, “and played on the cricket team.”

On Saturday, the Dopps will take their accustomed seats inside Zable Stadium when the Tribe football team welcomes fans into its meticulously renovated facility for a 6 p.m. kickoff against Norfolk State.

The Dopps, who in reality have watched W&M athletics for “only 25 to 30” years, won’t be in for quite the same pleasant surprise as others in the crowd. The couple, both Class of 1962, attended Zable Stadium’s open house on Sept. 4 and were wowed by the makeover.

{{youtube:medium:center|f8tEB1qsNYE, The "new" Zable Stadium shines}}

The project has transformed the 80-year-old facility, in particular the west side that sits adjacent to the Jimmye Laycock Football Center. It now features a new grand entrance, a new upper deck and press box, wider aisles, additional handrails, concession stands featuring an expanded menu and a new ticketing office.

There are also new and renovated restrooms on the east and west sides, and an upgraded sound system that can be heard clearly throughout the stadium. Egress lighting was improved, and the old press box on the east side was retooled and will be used for small social gatherings, such as the university’s young alumni.

Such improvements were not lost on the Dopps.Stuart Dopp '62

“I love the stadium,” Stuart Dopp said. “It is a beautiful, sweet place. It now gives you a sense of presence in keeping with a gladiator sport.”

While walking across the field towards the Smith-McGlothlin Grandstand, Dan Dopp stopped and looked down at the new artificial surface that is part of the renovation.

“This field is absolutely magnificent,” he said. “It feels like regular grass. Each year they have a Veteran’s Day event and they have skydivers that come into the stadium. I think they’re really going to appreciate the new sod.”

Up on the second level of the new grandstand, Jeff Barner and his father, Scott, took in a view of the stadium and field they hadn’t seen before.

“It’s a big improvement; we never had this,” said Jeff Barner, who is 37 years old but has held season tickets since he was 9. “It’s something we’ve needed to have, and it’s very nice.”

Scott Barner hasn’t always accompanied his son – he’s been a season ticket holder for about a decade -- but “I’ve started to get into it now.”

“It’s a great experience, coming here, and I love this building,” he said. “This will make a big difference.”Gina and Dennis Dedmon

Star receiver DeVonte Dedmon, a Williamsburg native and Warhill High School product, is one of two players from the immediate area on this year’s roster. Standing in the president’s box with husband Dennis, his mother, Gina Dedmon, agreed that the renovated Zable will give local high school players another reason to consider William & Mary.

“It definitely will,” she said. “Even DeVonte’s story has made others in the local area want to attend, too. Now we have a new stadium, and it’s beautiful. We have it all.”