Bill Little commentary: Fire and ice -- The metamorphosis of a dream
Aug. 29, 2008
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
The 2008 season marks the completion of the latest massive change to the structure. A north end, which was completed in 1926, was torn down following the 2006 season. And in its place has risen a state-of-the-art north end that is part of a $176 million project that will include 27,700 seats, adding 2,000 club seats and 47 stadium suites and raising the stadium capacity to almost 100,000.
While the building beneath the stands will serve many purposes--including a ground level food court--that will help change the face of the east side of the campus, the stadium itself remains dedicated to its purpose. When all of the current construction was planned in the mid-1990s, Darrell Royal agreed to allow his name to be added to the stadium name. But it was only with the expressed stipulation that "Texas Memorial Stadium" would always remain as a tribute to those Texans who have served in all wars.
But while the historic meaning of the stadium hasn't changed, there have been a few changes and additions that were completely necessary. When the 1990s construction was undertaken, there was an odd requirement that had to be met before any of it could be done.
The modern facilities of any stadium required more restrooms, and the current planners were all for that. But they had to spend $1.5 million first. The basic stadium sewer system, built for the times in 1924, could handle only so much flow. So you could add restrooms and toilets, but you couldn't count on the flush to go anywhere.
So there was that moment in the 1990s, when the sewer lines had been replaced, that athletics department employees were dispatched to the restrooms throughout the stadium, and they all flushed simultaneously on cue to make sure the repairs were adequate.
That done, the builders went about the business of revamping the stadium to accommodate the needs of the 21st century.
The original north end included 14,000 seats in the horseshoe beyond the goal line, and was the final piece of the 80-year-old structure that hadn't been remodeled. With the removal of the oval track, which once was the staging setting for many a Texas Relays in the spring, reconfiguring the north end of the stadium became a priority.
The challenge for the architects was to blend the massive, 1970s era upper deck on the west side in with the end-of-the-century version built on the east in 1998. Just as it was in 1972 when the original deck was built along with Bellmont Hall (a multipurpose, 11-story building underneath), the charge was also to integrate the stadium with an effective daily use for students.
With seven home games this season, as many as almost three-quarters of a million people will visit the stadium this fall. But the daily usage figure with the various food courts and other facilities, may far exceed that.
The stadium Veterans Committee, which stands watch over the emphasis of the stadium's original purpose, plans an area outside the stadium dedicated to the memory of the heroes who have served in all foreign conflicts representing the United States Armed Forces.
It is in that space that the image of the fertile soil versus the rock applies.
The rock represents the strength, not only of the massive stadium, which is now the largest outdoor stadium in Texas, but of the men and women to whom it is dedicated, and the will of those who have played here.
The soil is a space for growth, not only in the literal sense, but also in the figurative sense. A university is, after all, not made of bricks and mortar and steel. It is, instead, made of people. When the original hillside was selected, it was chosen because of its location, a structure rising in what amounted to a pasture. To the west was the original "40 Acres"--the campus of one of the state's two great institutions of higher learning...along with Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College in College Station.
To the southwest was the city of Austin, and the tallest building in town was the State Capitol Building.
From the north end in the new construction, fans will not only be able to see a great view of the field below and the huge video board at the south, they will also again see that Capitol, and the shining city that has risen around it.
They say that two of the great contrasts of passion are fire and ice. Robert Frost wrote about them, contrasting the power of desire and hate. The best visual example is that of the "fire and ice" rose, which is dramatic in its contrast of a white base and a red-tipped edge.
In its own way, all of that comes together here in this stadium. It is the melting pot for hopes, dreams, youth, age, and yes, rock solid strength and nurturing soil of growth.
It is our part of the educational process, so that in this place memories are renewed, and new ones are born. For sports teams are but a part of a whole, representative of a time when we are young, and reflective of a time gone by.