By Annie Carr
“Baylor Football finally returns home,” said Judge Ken Starr, president of Baylor University, at a press conference held Tuesday, May 7, to update on the new Baylor Stadium.
Sailgating, 168 concession stands, 45,000 seats and access to campus are just a few of the things to look forward to in the new, $250 million on-campus football stadium that is under construction on the Brazos River off Interstate 35 in Waco.
“We are on schedule and we will be playing football on the banks of the Brazos in August 2014,” said Bryan Nicholson, associate vice president for facility, planning and construction.
There are currently 250 members of the construction crew working on Baylor Stadium, and at the peak of the building process there will be 600. Jim Heley, the senior project manager, gave an update as part of a media day tour of the construction site.
Workers have dammed up the lagoon and pumped 33 million gallons of water back into the Brazos River, brought in 22,000 truckloads, or 70,000 yards, of dirt to fill in part of the lagoon and to raise the elevation of the footprint of the stadium. They have installed five miles of underground piping, poured 8,000 cubic yards of concrete and drilled 1,129 piles, all 45-50 feet deep.
The first milestone celebrated among the crew and everyone involved was with the Corps of Engineers when they received the permit to build on the
lagoon. Encore Electric was the first contractor on sight. Texas Department of Transportation is helping with the expansion of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and the City of Waco is always willing to help with inspections of the site.
“We are trying to use as many local companies as possible. Our mechanical contractor is local, the electrical contractor, paving and both of our concrete suppliers are local,” Horn said.
The crew is a little ahead of schedule on the lagoon and will be filling it up again in a month. Two pedestrian bridges are in the works to be built, one over the Brazos River to reach campus and the other will connect with a walkway along the waterfront.
Jeff Horn, senior superintendent of the job site, gave more specifics on the structure itself. He said that they have started the foundation, the concourse level and the columns. “We started on the west side and are working our way clockwise around from west to east.”
One of the main challenges for the construction is the river. The elevation had to be raised to get out of the floodplain. The highest raised point is 10 feet.
“The biggest headache of the job,” according to Horn, “is everything has to be brought in. The coordination of everything to be brought in on a timely manner is difficult.”
Horn made it clear that there are not many bad weather days built into the schedule. It is a six-day workweek for the crew and sometimes they will use Sundays to catch up from bad weather or get ahead on one part of the project. “It is a fast track job,” stated Horn, “we are about 20% done with the whole thing.”
“The steel and the precast for the stadium seats will take until the end of the year and then from the beginning of the year until opening will be the finishing stuff.”
“The stadium is very high profile because it is right on the freeway. When the memorial service for West, Texas, was held, we wanted to do something special so we got an American flag and a banner that said ‘God Bless West, Texas’ and hung it on the side facing the freeway. We did that in about two days. Now that it is over, we are going to get all of the crew working on the stadium to sign it and then we are going to present it to West.”
Following the media tour, a press conference was held at the football practice field on campus. Athletic Director Ian McCaw spoke along with Baylor President Starr, Nicholson and Head Football Coach Art Briles.
“We have recently reached $100 million in private philanthropy donations for the stadium,” Judge Starr announced.
“In 15 months, the finest football stadium in America will be open,” he said. “Just this morning, the 300th column of the stadium was poured. Columns are important to Baylor because of the four columns that stand on Academy Hill in Independence, Texas, just an hour and 45 minutes down the road, the first location of Baylor University.”
McCaw shared that 1,500 new season tickets were sold already for the 2013 school year. All six Founders Suites, 39 Premium Suites and 79 Loge Boxes have been sold and over 1,400 stadium bricks have also been sold. The club seats go on sale at the end of the month.
Coach Briles ended the press conference saying, “We can build a great facility and everyone is going to see it. Over 42 million travelers on Interstate 35 are going to see the new stadium every year. It doesn’t need to be another miracle for Baylor to beat someone. It needs to be just another day for us. It’s a great day. It’s a good day. It’s a day to be proud.”