By Rebecca Flannery
As thousands of students and members of the Waco community gathered to continue the legacy of the Traditions Rally, the meeting ground at McLane Stadium served as the new, extraordinary backdrop.
Josh Jackson, assistant director of ticket sales, said the stadium’s soft opening went just as planned.
“People keep commenting on how different it is than Floyd Casey, in a good way,” Jackson said. “I think they all came in with the expectation of the old stadium and were pleasantly surprised.”
The stadium was open to be explored by the public and all three tiers could be accessed. The Baylor Club was open in a museum-style for people to walk through and experience.
Casey Hooper, private event director for Baylor Club, was on site to answer questions about the club’s exclusive amenities.
“It’s one of the coolest features of the new stadium,” Hooper said.
And with the new features came new employees who were themselves exploring the unfamiliar corridors of McLane.
Desmond Johnson, an employee in McLane on his first shift, said he was like everyone else, just taking in everything for the first time.
“It’s breathtaking,” Johnson said. “I thought it was going to be similar to Floyd Casey, but I was so wrong. It’s so much better.”
Baylor alumni and new students alike were in awe of the long-awaited reveal. Ralph Adams, a 1958 alumnus, said he was at one of the first games in Floyd Casey Stadium and after having seen McLane was impressed by its beauty.
“It’s incredible how far they’ve come,” Adams said.
Adams and other fans in attendance welcomed the freshmen football members who took to the stage and shared their hopes for the 2014 season.
Mesquite freshman Verkedric Vaughns, a corner back for the Bears, said he’s most excited for the Nov. 8 game against Oklahoma University.
“They’re looking pretty good this year,” Vaughns said. “But I’m ready to prove them wrong.”
The team and fans at McLane were entertained later that evening by Phillip Phillips, season 11 winner of American Idol, who came onto the stage leading the crowd in a Sic ‘em.
While he played several songs from his new album “Behind the Light,” Phillips closed with the fitting song, “Home.”
Norman, Okla. freshman Madison Schreckengost was one of the hundreds of fans during Phillips’ performance who got to experience the Traditions Rally on the field.
“The stadium is so beautiful and I get to see Phillip Phillips front row,” Schreckengost said. “It’s so much better than Floyd Casey.”
Brian Nicholson, vice president of operations and facilities management, said the Traditions Rally and Friday’s high school game between Aledo and Cedar Park are just the preparation the stadium staff needs for Baylor’s home opener.
“It’s giving everyone a chance to get ready for Sunday,” Nicholson said.