Stadium expansion planned

As the last aspect of the facilities upgrade to be added, the plans for Bryant-Denny Stadium were frankly not finalized when the athletic facilities upgrades were officially announced. But Alabama officials are determined to make it one of the pillars of the overall project.

Details are still being discussed and many decisions have yet to be made, but has learned several details of interest to fans. At this point plans are to assign the project to an architect by December of this year, with the official start date for renovations tentatively set for December 1, 2004.

Until the actual blue prints have been drawn and bids accepted, planners can only estimate the price. But it's expected that the total expansion will cost in the range of $40 to 46 million.

The expansion will add approximately 10,000 seats to Bryant-Denny Stadium, bringing its capacity near 93,000. Plans call for a new plaza area outside leading to a new entrance to the stadium. Inside improvements would include additional sky boxes and a club level area as well as traditional upper deck seating.

Artist's rendering of the North endzone seats once construction has been completed. Note the extension of the sky box ring and the plaza seating. Also note that unlike many endzone additions around the country, the finished product will tie in seamlessly with existing levels of Bryant-Denny's interior.

Thad Turnipseed, who is coordinating all athletic upgrade construction projects for The University, reports that construction will begin immediately following the end of the 2004 season, with a tentative completion date set for August 1, 2006. Under that timetable fan seating would only be affected during the 2005 season.

But every effort will be made to minimize problems. "Right now we only project that eight rows in the North endzone will be affected," Turnipseed said.

Because Bryant-Denny was added to the overall upgrade project relatively late, specific pictures of what the outside plaza area will look like were not available. The inclusion of a picture showing the outside of Texas A&M's recent expansion caused some confusion, but fans shouldn't worry. Not only will Alabama's endzone enclosure be specifically designed for Bryant-Denny, but it will also likely include a much-anticipated parking deck.

An artist's rendering is not yet available, but Turnipseed indicated the deck would likely include two wings with the formal plaza in between. University officials are frankly excited about the possibilities for the plaza, as it will finally provide a formal entrance to Bryant-Denny facing the campus.

Obviously changes must be made to the existing row of fraternity houses and parking lots currently in between Bryant-Denny and University Boulevard. Four fraternity houses used to occupy the block between Stadium Drive and Tenth Avenue, but only the two closest to Stadium Drive will be affected. And one of those was destroyed by fire. No formal announcement has been made, but it's believed that the DKE house, which has some historical value, will be relocated elsewhere on campus. Gorgas Hall, located immediately across the street and currently used by campus police, would be one possible location.

When enclosure of the North endzone (closest in the photo) is completed, Bryant-Denny will seat close to 93,000 fans.

There has been talk that the student media building, which frankly is both too old and too small for its current function, may also be involved. The two parking lots, one behind the current row of fraternity houses and the other behind the Communication Buildings, will also almost certainly be impacted by construction of the parking decks and plaza.

Incidentally, the parking decks will be used during the week for campus parking and thus will be paid for with University funds. Their cost is not a part of the athletics upgrade budget. And of course many of the parking spaces will be used by the Communication Department.

On game days, available parking spaces in the new decks will likely be allocated to sky box holders with another portion for handicapped parking (the current handicapped lot will be a casualty of construction).

Plans are to involve fans in funding the new plaza area. Close to 80,000 bricks will pave the area and are expected to be engraved and sold to individual Alabama supporters. Hypothetically, if each brick were sold for $100, then the plaza construction would pay for itself.

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