A bright green football field painted on top of the parking lot gave a visual to those attending Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony of where the new Crusader football stadium and student union building will stand in just over a year’s time.
Though a gray sky threatened rain, students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni gathered at the event to celebrate the start of another project in the campus master plan.
President Dr. Randy O’Rear expressed his excitement from the “50-yard-line.”
“This is going to be a magnificent complex, and I cannot wait to watch as our new student union building and stadium rise up out of the heart of the campus,” he said.
The $50 million structure is set to be completed by the summer of 2013 and will be composed of a three-story, 107,000-square-foot student union building attached to a stadium that will hold up to 10,000 spectators.
The two parts of the project were designed together in order to merge student life and athletics.
“By itself, the new state-of-the-art student union building would transform the student life experience on campus,” O’Rear said. “However, its unique design in tandem with and overlooking the new home for Crusader football will redefine our campus community.”
Some recognizable names in architecture and construction were employed for the task.
“Only a special and talented team would have taken the vision we had for this project and put it into a tangible design,” O’Rear said.
Earl Santee of Populous design firm is the lead architect. He has been involved in such projects as Minute Maid Park in Houston, Target Field in Minneapolis and Yankee Stadium in New York.
The Turner construction company, which also worked on Yankee Stadium, will help implement the plans.
The new SUB will include a dining hall, grill, sports hall with multiple TV screens, a coffee shop featuring Starbucks coffee, a Chick-Fil-A, bookstore, offices, a state-of-the-art band hall, a banquet hall and social gathering areas.
Vice President for Student Life Dr. Byron Weathersbee thinks the structure for students to gather in will be beneficial to their educational experience at the university.
“Our leadership values and gets the fact of how important the co-curricular is to the learning community,” he said.
He looks forward to seeing how the facility will enhance student life.
“A building like this is a unifying force that truly brings students together,” Weathersbee said. “It provides a forum for divergent viewpoints and creates an environment where everyone feels welcome.”
Junior social work major Caitlin Hiett spoke for the student body at the ceremony.
“This will be the center of our campus, literally and figuratively,” she said. “These new establishments are going to change the way faculty, current students and prospective students view our beautiful campus.”
When the football program began at UMHB 14 years ago, it started with nothing but vision. Since then, it has not had a stadium to call its own. The new facility will be the culmination of many years of building up the program.
Head Coach Pete Fredenburg has been with the program since its infancy, and is thrilled about this next step.
“All we had was a vision and a dream. And this is an incredible result of that vision and dream. It took a lot of learning,” he said.
The new facility will include locker rooms, meeting rooms, training rooms, concession areas, a press box and a high definition video board.
Javicz Jones addressed attendees on behalf of the football team.
“This will be a great addition to our campus and will be a great indicator of our campus pride,” he said. “We are really looking forward to those first home games when we walk out and look around the stadium and see that it is filled up with fans, all purpled out.”
With an overall winning record of 133-33 since the program’s start, it is clear that the players and coaching staff put a lot of dedication into the game. Jones said that the new stadium is like recognition for all of their work.
He said, “It shows the time and effort we put in are really appreciated and valued by all of you,” he said.