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Sleek stadium upgrades have Wyoming Cowboys players, boosters gushing

War Memorial boost

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The sun glistens off the newly installed glass.

The Cowboys were greeted by a new shade of gold.

Brand new banners lined the rails behind each sideline.

It was enough to give quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels similar chills to those he felt while running out to the No. 2 Texas Longhorns and the sixth-largest crowd in War Memorial Stadium history.

Only on this morning, he was greeted by his own teammates and several dozen fans at a Wyoming scrimmage.

After a construction project and offseason facelift that's covered a year and a half, War Memorial Stadium even felt special on an average August morning.

"The stadium's awesome," Carta-Samuels said. "When Coach Christensen got here, he said he was going to try to make improvements for the school, improvements to the program and make us a big-time college football program. I think our athletic office has given him a lot of support.

"It looks special. I get goosebumps when I run out here now."

The most noticeable difference when fans arrive in Laramie is that the Cowboys' 60-year-old stadium will actually greet them, particularly those driving north from Interstate 80 on Grand Avenue.

A giant Steamboat underneath bright gold and brown letters announcing War Memorial Stadium is visible from more than half a mile away.

Once at the stadium, the addition of the stadium club and suites becomes clearer. Twelve indoor suites, 10 of them public, sandwich the Wildcatter Club which holds 256 private indoor seats.

"It's better than the drawings looked," said Gary Negich, president of First Interstate Bank in Laramie, which partnered with another booster to lease one of the 10 suites. "You get that new smell when you walk in there. It's all done and shiny and new and smells right.

"I'm really excited about this."

Negich said the suites are something that he had been waiting years for as they present a unique opportunity to host guests -- and not just for football games.

The area can be rented throughout the year as well for private parties.

"We've been waiting for something like this for years," Negich said. "But it's not only good for me, it's good for the football program and the college. You could bring people in and entertain them, and you never know what kind of donations you'll get. It gets people excited about more than the football."

Still, the upgrades undoubtedly raised the morale of the players already in Laramie, and the sight itself could play a role in recruiting others to join them.

Far below the suites themselves, UW changed the paint scheme on the field to a different shade of gold that has received rave reviews.

The façade around the stadium got a paint job as well, from section lettering to areas recognizing bowl game appearances.

Bathrooms and concessions areas on the north end of War Memorial have been upgraded.

And even the locker rooms have been spruced up.

"We came out and looked the other day and saw all the yellow, and it really brought the stadium out and made it look better; it's a big difference," UW running back James Davis said. "Everything in the locker room and out here is a big difference. Everyone's been talking about how big of a difference it is."

With the lights of a season-opening home game, Carta-Samuels won't be the only one feeling chills.

Contact sports reporter Eric Schmoldt at eric.schmoldt@trib.com. Check out his blog at tribtown.trib.com/ESchmoldt/blog. Follow him on Twitter @ericschmoldt.

WAR MEMORIAL BY THE NUMBERS

BUILT: 1950

ATTENDANCE ENTERING 2010: 5,547,665.

NUMBER OF GAMES: 316

HIGHEST SINGLE-GAME ATTENDANCE: 34,475

PRICE FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECT SET TO BE UNVEILED: Approximately $22 million

NUMBER OF SUITES INCLUDED: 12 (10 public)

NUMBER OF SEATS IN NEW CLUB AREA: 256

NEW STADIUM CAPACITY: 29,086

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