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Bridge opening spurs excitement

We liked the sounds and the feeling of excitement that were in the air during Tuesday’s opening celebration of the pedestrian bridge linking Apogee Stadium with the main University of North Texas campus.

The activities, including a ribbon cutting, were held prior to the Mean Green’s nationally televised football game with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and we can’t help thinking that the enthusiasm displayed at the event provided a spark to build support for the team.

There’s no way to tell for sure, but the Mean Green did chalk up a 30-23 victory over the Ragin’ Cajuns later that evening.

The celebration was one of those special events that helps link people of all ages — just the kind of thing that officials were hoping for — and plenty of fun besides.

“It feels like I’m a part of UNT history, which is really cool,” said Kylee Acoba, a radio, television and film sophomore. “I love this school, and it feels like I’m getting to be a part of history in the making for UNT.”

Students participated in a celebratory spirit walk, marching from various parts of the campus to the bridge’s entrance for the 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.

Before the ribbon was cut, Rudy Reynoso, UNT’s Student Government Association president, led students in chants of “Mean, Green!” and “North, Texas!”

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.

UNT President Lane Rawlins said the pedestrian bridge opening is another piece of UNT heritage. Years from now, he said, students will tell how they were among the first to cross the walkway.

“It’s kind of symbolic,” Rawlins said. “You could feel the enthusiasm of the students. It was a lot of fun.”

Rawlins said the new bridge, which is 20 feet wide, 354 feet long and 17 feet tall, also provides a safer route for students to travel from one side of the campus to another.

Kirsten Barkin, a junior at UNT, agreed, telling us that students no longer have to worry about playing “Frogger” as they look to cross I-35E to Apogee Stadium. It was Barkin’s first time attending a Mean Green football game, and with the new pedestrian bridge opening, she said she believes it will not be her last.

Construction on the $2.5 million bridge began in February. The opening, originally planned for the 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.

We think that a lot of people from around the area probably felt the same way. Many folks who attended may have been attending their first game, no doubt attracted by promotional efforts designed to fill the stands for the national broadcast.

But we’re betting they’ll be back. Excitement like that is infectious.