End zone projects scoring big
End zones continue to be the hot spots for major renovations and expansions at college football stadiums.
Schools are using the space to create additional premium inventory, expand concourses and provide social gathering areas. Often the projects are tied to new training facilities as schools look to stay cutting edge and keep up with rivals.
The University of Texas has a $175 million upgrade slated for its south end zone, while Alabama is rolling out its own $75 million project. Arkansas just took the wraps off a $160 million expansion of its north end zone, while Georgia just finished a $63 million west end zone project.
“Of the top programs in the country, almost every one of them has taken this on or is thinking about taking this on,” said Bill Johnson, design principal for architecture firm HOK, which handled designs at Georgia and is spearheading the work at Alabama.
Other schools — including Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Purdue and Tennessee — are also on the end zone bandwagon or hopping on it.
Wyoming this year opened a renovated and expanded $44 million training center designed by DLR Group in the end zone of its football stadium. Greg Garlock, principal with DLR Group, said the trend is trickling down to Division II schools, which also are seeking ways to remain competitive.
Gerardo Prado, sports practice leader and vice president for architecture firm HNTB, said the end zones are ground zero for renovations and expansions because schools don’t want to rebuild sideline areas and disrupt the home to longtime fans, season-ticket holders and donors. Instead, end zones often give designers more of a blank slate, usually with less disruption. HNTB has rebuilt and revamped end zones at the likes of Iowa State, Arizona State, Kansas and Iowa.
Iowa State spent $60 million improving its south end zone in 2015 and is looking at another $80 million to build a new student-athlete center at the north end zone, said Frank Nogel, senior associate athletic director at Iowa State.
Five to watch
The university has announced a $175 million upgrade for the south end zone that will create new coaches offices and field-level premium seats, and will create a longhorn-shaped logo via a new balcony. The project will be finished in 2021.
The Crimson Tide plans a $75 million renovation for both end zones at Bryant-Denny Stadium, a project that will be completed in phases from 2019 to 2020. The north end zone will get new field-level and bunker-style clubs. The south side and its upper deck will get new social/standing-room areas and a larger scoreboard.
The school’s $98 million south end zone project, slated to be finished next year, includes a new football training facility and field-level premium seats.
The Cyclones pumped $60 million into south end zone upgrades in 2015 and are now looking at an $80 million facelift for the north end zone that will include a new student-athlete center with space for training, nutrition and academics. The project will feature a new area for the school’s marching band, patio space and a concourse connecting the stadium’s east and west sides. The project will be built in phases between 2019 and 2021.
Neyland Stadium is getting a $340 million modernization that includes a $180 million renovation on the south end zone, which when finished in 2020 will provide new food and beverage areas, new premium seats, an entry plaza and an expanded concourse.
Nogel said the goal of the original south end zone project was to create entry-level price points that would attract new season-ticket holders and a younger demographic. For example, end zone club seats at Iowa State this season sold for $823 per person, plus a minimum donation to the school of $500. That compares to sideline club areas where tickets go for $1,500 per seat per season along with a $5,000 annual membership in the Cyclone Club. Iowa State also added single-game patio table and bar seating in the south end zone club. Those go for $1,000 for a table of four, or $500 for two bar rail seats. Nogel said the school also rents out the end zone club area for events such as business mixers, weddings and community functions.
Often the goal of end zone projects is choosing quality, such as premium seats, over quantity, such as simply adding more traditional seating. “We’re not trying to put in as many seats as possible,” said Sherri Privitera, a senior architect with Populous, which designed the end zone renovation now underway at Missouri.
Tim Hickman, deputy athletic director at Missouri, said a 10,000-seat south end zone area is being reduced to 4,000 seats, most of them premium inventory.
Connecting concourses via end zone improvements was part of the $307 million full-stadium modernization at Arizona State, where a new entry plaza and standing area were built in the north end zone. A new student section was built at the south end zone.
Concourse improvements, new food and beverage areas, a new entry plaza and new premium seats are also part of end zone renovation plans at Tennessee.
Architects who design the end zone spaces say the projects can offer new takes on premium and traditional seating.
HOK’s Johnson said improvements at Mississippi State include field-level premium club seating and other areas targeted toward younger premium fans both via lower price points and more social areas.
Indiana has a terrace level with a kids area and social area in its new $53 million south end zone complex, which also includes a new athletic training and medical center. Arkansas has 38 new suites and 20 new field-level loge boxes seating four to eight fans in its new end zone. Missouri also has a new field-level club area as part of its renovations. “You can have your feet on the grass without being a high-level donor,” Privitera said.
Other schools are also using end zone areas to build new or expanded training centers for athletes.
“The big part of our project is our football operations facility,” said Missouri’s Hickman, referencing the new training center as part of the school’s end zone project. “We will be moving our entire football operations into the facility.”
A new game-day locker room and areas for recruits and their families are part of the new end zone area at Georgia, said HOK’s Johnson. “It has a major recruiting lounge. That is about the parents,” he said. Alabama also is rebuilding recruiting lounges and stadium locker rooms.
Johnson said such improvements show recruits, parents and coaches a school’s prowess on the facilities and training front. “A lot of these are dovetailing into the bigger message the university has.”