The University of North Texas celebrated the opening of its pedestrian bridge linking Apogee Stadium with the main campus Tuesday before the Mean Green’s nationally televised football game with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Students participated in a celebratory spirit walk, marching from various parts of the campus to the bridge’s entrance for a celebratory ribbon-cutting shortly after 5 p.m.
They wore UNT and Mean Green shirts, carried UNT flags and green and white Texas flags. Some even painted their faces and hair green. They captured the moment in photos.
Before the ribbon was cut, Rudy Reynoso, UNT’s Student Government Association president, led students in chanting “Mean, Green!” and “North, Texas!”
Students counted down from three as the ribbon was cut.
The pulsating sound of drums filled the air as the first students and members of the community walked across the bridge.
Students chanted “U-N, U-N-T!” as they crossed the bridge from the old Fouts Field over Interstate 35E and to the east side of Apogee Stadium.
“It feels like I’m a part of UNT history, which is really cool,” said Kylee Acoba, a radio, television, film sophomore. “I love this school, and it feels like I’m getting to be a part of history in the making for UNT.”
Acoba, who said she has a view of the bridge from her dorm window, said she was anxious about the opening.
UNT President Lane Rawlins called the pedestrian bridge opening another piece of UNT heritage. Years from now, he said, students will tell stories about how they were the first to cross the walkway the day it opened.
“It’s kind of symbolic,” Rawlins said. “You could feel the enthusiasm of the students. It was a lot of fun.”
Rawlins said the 20-foot-wide, 354-feet-long and 17-foot-tall bridge provides a safer route for students in traveling from one side of the campus to another.
With the opening of the bridge, students no longer have to worry about playing “Frogger” as they look to cross I-35E to Apogee Stadium, said Kirsten Barkin, a junior studying theater. It was her first time attending a Mean Green football game Tuesday, and with the new pedestrian bridge opening, she said she believes it will not be her last.
For more than 10 years, Brian Pavelek a UNT 1998 alumnus, has tailgated at every Mean Green football game. He said he’s excited about the new pedestrian bridge even though it’s opening later than expected.
“It was supposed to open at the beginning of the season, but better late than never,” he said. “It’s neat. I’m glad they’re opening it.
“I think it will help out the athletes walking over from the dorms. It will definitely help in getting over to the games, and it looks nice from the highway too.”
Pavelek said he was excited to see the bridge go up prior to overall completion of the Interstate 35 expansion.
Construction on the $2.5 million bridge began in February. The bridge, slated to open for the Mean Green’s first home game, was delayed to complete welding, the railings and connecting sidewalks for the project.
The delay built up emotions for some students, Reynoso said.
“It sparked more excitement for the students at large,” he said.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .