The University of Alabama has made big strides in athletics facilities in the last 10 years. Now the department is making plans for even bigger steps in the next 10 years.
Alabama unveiled a 10-year, $600 million initiative Thursday to upgrade Bryant-Denny Stadium, Coleman Coliseum, the Mal Moore Athletic Facility and several other athletics facilities. Athletics director Greg Byrne announced the plan at a news conference along with president Stuart R. Bell and football coach Nick Saban. Byrne presented the plan for ‘The Crimson Standard’ after a year-and-a-half of research and study.
“The evolution of the facilities is critical as we continue to move our program forward to support the levels we expect them to perform at and compete for championships,” Byrne said at the news conference. “This is a process that involves our student-athletes, our letterwinners, our coaches, our staff, university leadership and our fans.”
The plan is highlighted by renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium that will cost more than $250 million. The precise cost of renovations may still change in the years to come, and exact dates for renovations haven’t yet been set. All facilities plans are subject to approval by the board of trustees, and fundraising goals must still be met.
The initiative includes about $5 million in updates for men’s and women’s golf and about $3 million in improvements to softball’s Rhoads Stadium. Coleman Coliseum, the home of men’s and women’s basketball, will receive a major renovation expected to cost about $115 million.
Alabama has already secured commitments for nearly $143 million towards the plan, Byrne said. That included a $1 million pledge from Nick and Terry Saban.
“To reinvest in the players and the programs here to make Alabama’s athletic programs continue to be great in the future is a sacrifice that we all need to make,” Saban said. “We all want to have success. We can’t get complacent about what we’ve been able to accomplish in the past. We have to look forward to what we need to do in the future.”
The 10-year plan will proceed in three phases. The first phase, which is expected to include changes to the Mal Moore building and include some of the renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium, could begin during the fall of 2019 or after the 2019 football season. The first round of renovations to the stadium are estimated to cost $78 million. It is likely to reduce seating to less than 100,000 from its current capacity of 101,821, Byrne said, but the exact capacity after renovations isn’t known.
It will add a student terrace in the stadium’s south end zone, with a large, new video board positioned over the student section. Byrne said he doesn’t anticipate cutting down on the total number of seats in the student section. The north end zone will also receive two new video boards for those who can’t see the video board in the south end.
“We’re still working with our numbers on what impacts different things we’re moving around,” Byrne said. “The goal, for the students, is to have a net zero on impact for them.”
A field-level club seating area will be added in the north end zone. The west sideline will receive 10 new boxes called the “Founder’s Club,” each at a cost of $5 million. Byrne said eight of those boxes, where the press box is currently located, are already sold. The press box will move to the east side of the stadium.
“We’ve had some incredibly generous people make this a reality for us,” he said.
A new locker room and recruiting lounge will also be added in the north end zone. There will also be a renovation to the tunnel that the team uses to enter the field. The first phase of the plan could be done by the 2022 season, and should be done in time for Alabama’s marquee home game against Texas in 2023.
“Who would have thought that?” Byrne said with a grin.
That phase will also include a renovation of the football locker room at the Mal Moore building, the medical treatment room, add a sports science center and move the weight room out to maintain its current size. The lobby will also be redone.
The investment in Bryant-Denny Stadium and improved fan experience there will weigh heavily in scheduling decisions for the future, Byrne said.
The second phase, which includes the update to Coleman Coliseum, will also include club seating in the south end zone at Bryant-Denny Stadium. That phase will also impact other Olympic sports, though Byrne said those plans aren’t firm yet. Byrne said that phase could begin after the 2021-22 basketball season “if everything goes smoothly.”
The third and final phase of the plan will alter the exterior of Bryant-Denny Stadium, concourses, concessions, and stadium entrances and exits.
“When you walk into the gates on the west side (by Wallace Wade Avenue), there’s all that space underneath that we don’t use a whole lot on gameday once you go in the gates. Then you’re almost immediately faced with a ramp that blocks off the ingress and the egress of the traffic flow. Once you get past the ramp you only have about 18 feet of room to try to move about 30,000 people in and out of that side of the stadium. What we’re going to do is take the concourse all the way out to the street. We’ll go from about 18 feet of ingress and egress to about 81 feet.”
The estimate for updates to Bryant-Denny Stadium in the third phase is about $210 million. The final phase will also include an updated exterior to the stadium. The target to begin that phase is around 2025-26.
“The goal is to have everyone at Bryant-Denny Stadium have a much better game-day ingress, egress, concessions, restrooms, video experience than what they currently have. One of the things we will always want to be sensitive too is making sure our stadiums, or any of our venues, have a wide variety of price points for people to come to our games. That will still be the case. Then also making sure we have an economic model that works for us.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196