New Improved Cougardome: Safer, More Accessible, and Maybe Louder

Fans at the Cougardome for last Friday’s Quince Orchard football opener got a pleasant surprise: A new ramp and walkway to make the bleachers more accessible, a seating area for handicapped visitors, and no more gaps between the seats, which for years led parents to fear for the safety of small children, seat cushions, and cell phones.

“It’s a good situation,” said QO Athletic Director George Awkard, noting that the improvements were necessary to make the stadium compliant with accessibility laws and to close the spaces that created a safety hazard. “I think it makes it more modern. Now everybody has access to it. It also creates good seats for everybody.”

Awkard acknowledged that the fixes were long overdue and that the school had notified Montgomery County Public Schools to make them. “We alerted them to it,” he said, and after performing a study, county officials agreed that it was time to make the changes.

The county’s contractor made things exciting for Awkard. They squeezed the work in late in the summer between two other projects, taking it down to the final days before the stadium was ready for the opening game.

“It changes the complexion” of the Cougardome, Awkard said. “It’s probably going to change how we deal with the crowd.” School officials have met to plan security and “keep movement happening and where people are going to be able to sit.”

The renovations do not change the Dome’s seating capacity, Awkard said, but “it feels like more room. … The big change is the standing. We had so much standing area before and now it’s gone now right there in front of the fence.” In addition, “you gain access and flow.”

Of course, there may be some downsides. “I don’t think the kids will be happy,” said Mac Kennedy, a former Red Army officer during his high school days, pointing out that because of the extended walkway in front of the bleachers, students will no longer be able to hang over the front row of seats and intimidate opposing teams.

But Awkard wasn’t worried about making the Dome any less imposing to opponents. “By closing in those gaps in between the seats, they’re going to be able to make a whole lot of noise. So you’ll really be able to hear the Red Army stomping.”