$105 million stadium renovation for TCU

Updated: August 17, 2010, 12:05 AM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

FORT WORTH, Texas -- By the start of the 2012 season, TCU's antiquated Amon G. Carter Stadium will finally join coach Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs in the modern era.

TCU announced Monday an eagerly awaited and much-needed $105 million renovation of the west side and north end zone that will transform the 80-year-old stadium into, as TCU puts it, "the Camden Yards of collegiate football stadiums."

The project, fully funded by 34 donors, will begin immediately following TCU's final home game on Nov. 13 and will be completed for the start of the 2012 football season, "when Oklahoma, Virginia and BYU come to town," Patterson said. "The day after our last ballgame, we're going to get ready to go. I don't think you'll see it come down slowly."

Renovations are expected to be about three-fourths complete by the start of the 2011 season and will not require the Horned Frogs to play those home games elsewhere.

HKS Sports & Entertainment Group, the firm that completed Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, will oversee the first major renovation to the TCU stadium since 1956 when the upper deck was added. The west side will be transformed into three tiers of seating. The second tier and upper deck will be divided by 24 suites that are designated for the donors, plus 2,500 club seats as part of a more than 20,000-square foot club level, and a new press box. The north end zone renovation will include a raised second-tier of seating and nine suites.

Seating capacity will be a more intimate 40,000, down from 44,358, but expandable to more than 50,000. The outside of the stadium will also be renovated and is being designed to blend with the Southwest art deco style of the neighboring Meyer-Martin Athletic Complex and the TCU campus.

"In the world of athletics, you also have to be able to show that you can hold your worth," Patterson said. "You've got to be able to give back to your university. You've got to be able to stand on your own two feet. By building this stadium, we're also going to be able to increase our revenue to be able to hold and stand our own ground."

Of course Patterson's unprecedented success, delivering the TCU program onto the national scene in recent seasons, including last year's first-ever trip to a BCS bowl game and No. 6 final ranking, has made such a renovation possible at the small, private school where football had more or less been dormant for decades.

After an initial gift of $15 million in January from the Amon G. Carter Foundation, it took eight months for TCU to raise the total to $105 million.

Now that funding is complete and construction approved, the question is will people come to the new stadium? TCU football, even in this current heyday, has not been an easy sell in Fort Worth, which is home to far more Longhorns, Aggies and Red Raiders than Horned Frogs.

TCU's enrollment in 2009 was 8,865 and athletic director Chris Del Conte estimated that the number of TCU alums in the Dallas-Fort Worth region is only about 23,000.

"We need this to be Fort Worth's team," Del Conte said. "We actually have more Texas Tech and more Texas alumni in the region, so we have to really focus and say this is your hometown team."

Raising interest in their backyard and subsequently attendance has been a slow burn. In 2008, attendance jumped to 30,388 and last year it rose to 38,186, boosted by a single-season attendance record of 50,307 against Utah on Nov. 14. Two weeks later, 41,738 saw TCU end the regular season undefeated against New Mexico. Those games were the only two of six home dates to draw at least 38,000.

The momentum has carried over heading into the 2010 season, Patterson's 10th as head coach. TCU has already set a school record for season-ticket sales and is closing in on 17,000 with less than three weeks until the start of the season (Sept. 4 against Oregon State at Cowboys Stadium) and nearly a month before TCU's home opener against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 11.

"I know my job now," Patterson said, "is to keep winning games."

Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

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