North end construction hits full stride as Football season ends
To appreciate the impact of the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium north end project to The University of Texas, Jim Baker, the associate athletics director for event operations, says, "It will be like going from Kansas to Oz, from black-and-white to color."
The transformation begins with the demolition on Dec. 8.
"We have been working with everyone around campus regarding the demolition," Baker began. "We've got flyers up all across campus in offices and classrooms to inform students of what will be taking place. We've had communication with all facets of the academic community."
When completed in August 2008, the $176 million project will bring the capacity at the stadium to more than 90,000. There will be 47 suites and 2,000 new club seats in the north end.
But it will bring more than what will be used by football patrons during the season.
"There will be a new 18,000-square-foot academic center," Baker said. "That will put all academics together. There also will be a student center that will feature wireless Internet connections for computers.
"There will be a food court that will be open year-round. We're negotiating with vendors now for the franchises that will populate the food court. We're doing this because we want to make this a six- or seven-day-a-week building. We want this (north end project) to be more than seven football weekends a year.
"We want this to serve the entire UT community."
Baker understands that he can't fast-forward to August 2008, so there will be challenges during next football season.
"There will be about 15,000 seats in the north end," he reported. "That leaves us about 5,100 shy of what the capacity was in 2005."
Of course, Baker already has had his share of challenges with regard to the north end project during the 2006 football season.
Construction created a need to move 16 oak trees surrounding that area of the stadium.
"These trees weigh anywhere from 150,000 to 250,000 pounds," said Dr. Robert Moon, an independent consultant on this effort that began last February.
The root system to some of these trees is as much as 30 feet wide.
"To ensure livability, you can't just pull these trees out of the ground," said Moon, a Dallas resident who spent 10 years with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and is in his 25th year as a private consultant.
Moon said that trees that were growing east/west or north/south had to be replanted in the same direction.
"There were misting systems placed in the trees to ensure their health after the move," he said, noting that such precautions had to be taken because a tree can get sunburned.
Moon, who also was a consultant on the Blanton Museum project where 13 trees were moved, said 12 of the 16 trees in the UT project were moved nearby the stadium.
The cost of this tree-moving project was $700,000.
The first of the trees was moved in early August and Baker reported that the last five trees were moved earlier this month.
The north end project, which received a $7.5 million contribution from W.A. "Tex" Moncrief ($4 million) and the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation ($3.5 million pledge) in August, is not using any tax or University dollars.
"There is about $36 million in gifts," Baker began, "and the remainder is bonded. The debt service for this project is coming from everything related to this project -- season tickets, the suites."
This was imperative to Men's Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds, who wanted all services from the expansion project to pay for all the amenities.
"This is an aging facility," said Baker, who already has overseen the work on the east side, west side, south end and the 7,340-square-foot videoboard.
"This (the north end) is not the end of the work on the stadium," he continued. "There still is work to be done on the south end. The north end certainly is a major part of the work we've done on the stadium, no doubt about that. There's been work being done on the stadium for the last eight years.
"The north end had two concession stands and one men's and one women's restroom."
Fans will be able to see the progress of the construction at TexasSports.com through a live Web cam and periodic updates.
"And we are going to stay true to the name of the stadium," Baker said. "We're going to do a war memorial section in the north end. We're going to have monuments. We're going to really showcase the memorial in the northwest corner.
"It is a going to be a high point."
As he said, from Kansas to Oz.