Stadium could face changes

Stadium could face changes

Amid the talk surrounding several planned campus projects, such as a new student center and increased parking, the athletics department is pushing another agenda – a renovated Amon Carter Stadium.Athletics director Danny Morrison said the project is still in the design stage, and there are no immediate plans to start construction.

“We’ve had some preliminary studies and some conceptual and engineering planning done,” he said, “but we still have work to do. We’ve looked at things like a new press box, some club and box seats, and working more with American with Disabilities Act requirements.”

Ross Bailey, associate athletics director of operations, said conforming to ADA regulations is a primary aim.

“It’s a 75-year-old stadium,” he said. “It may not meet many of the current standards.”

Bailey said whenever an older stadium is renovated, the accessibility standards it was constructed under will be out of date and must be updated.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s ADA requirement form outlines several key areas that must be wheelchair-accessible, including concessions stands, public telephones and elevators. It also states that seating must be designed in a way that allows for equal viewing opportunities for those in wheelchairs.

The administration has looked at other college’s stadiums and facilities over the past several years, including SMU and Colorado State, both schools that have implemented recent renovations. Bailey said most schools are now trying to upgrade their facilities.

“I think, overall, our athletics facilities are very good,” Bailey said. “Is there an arms race that has occurred somewhat in college athletics? Yes. But we’re not trying to be at the very top of opulence. We don’t need marble on the bathroom floors; we just need to make sure all the toilets flush.”

Morrison said fan expectations drive some of the administration’s plans.

“I think there’s an expectation among the fans that you have the amenities,” Morrison said. “I think fans who go to sporting events expect those things.”

SMU’s football stadium, Gerald J. Ford Stadium, opened for its first game in September 2002. It features 600 box seats and 24 luxury suites, amenities that Morrison said the TCU administration has discussed.

Brad Sutton, associate athletics director of media relations at SMU, said he thinks such luxuries are more a courtesy than a result of supply and demand.

“I don’t know if you would say that fans expect them, but those are certainly revenue generators for the department,” Sutton said.

Doug Max, associate athletics director of facilities and scheduling at Colorado State, said the extra revenue generated by suites and club seats can be substantial.

“This is only the first year (after the renovations), so we’re anticipating over $300,000,” Max said.

CSU’s administration finished its stadium work shortly before the 2005 football season. Max said CSU added hundreds of seats, a new press box, a video board and luxury suites, yet the total cost was a bargain.

“What we did cost $15.2 million,” Max said. “We also added a synthetic practice field in that deal, so we got an amazing amount done for that amount.”

Although not as old as Amon Carter Stadium, CSU’s Hughes Stadium was outdated, Max said.

“Our stadium was built back in 1964,” Max said. “We needed to do something; it had to be improved because it was just too old.”

Air Force also recently finished work on its 43-year-old stadium, including a new video board and sky boxes. Cadet Jacob Malberg, who transferred to the Academy from TCU this year, said that contrary to the administration’s aims, the changes don’t add to the student experience.

“I think they contribute a little bit, but I would say most people don’t really notice them,” Malberg said. “I would say put in a better sound system or something to pump up the crowd other than the band.”

Malberg said the enjoyment of college football isn’t found in the luxuries or amenities but in the excitement of the student body.

“Something that I like about the games here is we are way more involved than at TCU,” Malberg said. “They have about the same attendance, but the atmosphere up here is way better.”

Several TCU football players said comparing facilities to other schools depends on what one is looking at.

Sophomore linebacker David Hawthorne said the playing surface at Amon Carter Stadium is top-notch.

“We have the best field (in the Mountain West Conference),” Hawthorne said. “At a lot of the other schools, the field is all torn up or has high grass or has big chunks of mud stuck in it. We have the best one by far.”

Senior cornerback Drew Coleman said Amon Carter Stadium may provide the basics but lacks the modern feel of the stadiums at SMU or Brigham Young.

“I think we have everything but the sky boxes and the luxury boxes,” Coleman said. “Those are pretty cool. I see those at SMU, and they aren’t anything fancy, but they do have them.”

Both Hawthorne and Coleman said they agreed that the internal facilities at TCU, such as locker and weight rooms, are up to par. Hawthorne said TCU’s training rooms, although not the best, are above average.

“They (could) be a lot worse,” Hawthorne said. “The ones here rank near everyone else’s.”

Morrison said the stadium is not the only feature destined for change, however.

“We’re always looking for ways to renovate the stadium,” Morrison said. “What we’ve really been doing is looking at plans with regards to Amon Carter Stadium and Daniel-Meyer Coliseum as a part of our master plan. There are five things on our master plan: the stadium, the coliseum, an indoor practice facility, an Olympic sports facility and a golf short-game facility.