Bama kicks off ambitious building campaign

Alabama Head Football Coach Dennis Franchione said, "In recent years there has been something of an arms race in college athletics facilities." And Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore said, in effect, "Let's roll!" On Monday, Moore announced a $100 million capital improvements campaign for Alabama's athletics facilities, a project that will include the expansion of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Moore kicked off the Crimson Tradition drive, the first in Alabama athletics history, by introducing a group of 28 supporters who form the Crimson Tradition Committee. Moore, who noted that Alabama's athletics department does not depend on state funds for its facilities, said Alabama would raise $50 million from private donations and would raise an additional $50 million from the issuance of bonds. Moore said he hoped the campaign could be completed within five years.

The committee, chaired by Trustee Paul W. Bryant, Jr., presented a check for $30 million to Moore, money raised within the committee to jump-start the fund-raising campaign.

Heery International, Inc. (http://www.heery.com), an Atlanta firm which spear-headed the west and east side expansions of Bryant-Denny Stadium, has been retained to continue the development of the athletics facilities. PH&J Architects, Inc., of Montgomery has assisted in the development of the master plan.

There has been much speculation about the projects to be included in a new athletics capital improvements plan, and that speculation generally did not include expansion of Bryant-Denny Stadium. However, previous expansions and renovations were extraordinarily successful and there is a long waiting list for premium seating in the stadium. While plans are not finalized, the renovation and expansion will include sky-boxes, chairback seating, and a club level for some 2,000 with a dining area.

An artist's rendering of the proposed expansion of Bryant-Denny Stadium. The North endzone will be enclosed, including luxury boxes and club-level seating. With the extra seats, stadium capacity will increase to the 92,000 range.

Although precise figures will not be available until architectural plans are finalized, it is expected that the capacity of Bryant-Denny Stadium will be raised from its current 83,818 to between 90,000 and 92,000.

Also at the north end, a plaza area will be developed from University Boulevard to the stadium.

The Alabama Football Complex will also be expanded and renovated. The building, now 17 years old, will include an addition that will include a 22,000 square foot weight room. There will also be renovated dressing rooms, a new squad room and recruiting center, and additional office space. The current weight room will be converted into an expanded (by three times) and modernized training area and rehabilitation center. The complex will also have a new lobby and reception area on the first floor.

Coleman Coliseum is also in for a major upgrade, primarily in the addition of a two-story lobby area. There will be new offices. Tide Pride and the Athletics Ticket Office will be combined in first floor offices. The President's Lounge will be expanded and will be used as a recruiting area. Both the weight room and the training room will be expanded. Improvements will be made in the concourse and seating areas as well.

The program has already begun to the extent that one aspect of the improvements campaign is replacing the artificial turf in the Hank Crisp Indoor Building. That practice area was originally AstroTurf and is now being upgraded with the grass-like Field Turf surface that Alabama's football team played on in the Independence Bowl at the end of last season.

The first major facility upgrade will be converting Bryant Hall into an academic support center for all student-athletes. Bryant Hall, which is now empty, was the home of Alabama football and basketball players before the NCAA did away with athletics dormitories. Moore said plans call for the facility to be "the finest academics center for athletes in the country." The building will include a computer lab, reading lab, writing lab, lecture rooms, and classrooms.

A new wing will be added to the building to serve as a dormitory for freshman and sophomore football players. NCAA rules allow housing athletes together in a dorm provided more than 50 per cent of the occupants are students not associated with the athletics department. Alabama's College of Engineering will utilize the majority of housing in the new addition. Additionally, the engineering students living in the facility will have use of the academic support center.

The new Bryant-Hall will also have a dining facility available to all students.

Paul Bryant Jr. (left) and Joe Kelley (right) present a check for $30 million to Tide Athletics Director Mal Moore. The check accounts for 3/5's of the total fund raising goal.

A new soccer stadium, seating approximately 2,000, will be built around the current soccer field. A new tennis complex with 12 courts -- six for the men's team and six for the women's team -- will be build in the area near the Student Recreation Center. A pavilion between the soccer and tennis facilities will provide locker rooms for Alabama's teams and visiting teams. When the tennis facility is complete, the current tennis stadium will be demolished. Part of that space will be used to extend two football practice fields to 100 yards. Those fields had to be reduced to just under 100 yards when the Hank Crisp Indoor Building was constructed. The demolition of the tennis stadium will also provide additional parking in the Coleman Coliseum and Sewell-Thomas Baseball Stadium area.

A new entranceway from Bryant Drive will be constructed over the drive into the athletics complex.

Moore has been working on the project since becoming athletics director. He said, "It is my responsibility to provide facilities for our coaches and student-athletes that will enable them to compete for championships on the conference and national level."

Moore said, "Our fans have repeatedly asked, ‘What can we do to help?' The way to help is to join with this committee to make our facilities not just superb ones, but the very best in America." Moore praised Alabama fans, who, he noted, have been renewing their pledges for tickets at a record rate.

Moore said that he hoped the addition to the Football Complex could begin soon. He said the work at Coleman Coliseum would be complicated by the fact that several sports -- men's and women's basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball -- participate in the building.

Moore said that Alabama officials and architects looked at facilities at a number of schools, including Texas A&M, Texas, North Carolina, and Arkansas.

Franchione has been a part of capital campaigns for athletics facilities in previous jobs, and he recognizes the importance of facilities to a college sports program. He said, "I am really excited about the additions and improvements to our facilities. And I appreciate the pace of the project. Today is a tremendously positive day for University of Alabama athletics. The fact that $30 million has already been raised shows the strength of the compassion people have for The University of Alabama. It makes a great statement about where we are going."

Bryant, the son of Alabama's famed football coach, underwrote the most recent expansion and renovation of Bryant-Denny Stadium. The chairman of the Crimson Tradition Committee said, "We are at a crucial stage in our history where we must not only appreciate the accomplishments of all those who have created a tradition of excellence, but where we join together and generate and environment where our current and future coaches are provided facilities that will help them recruit quality student athletes to our campus."

Bryant added, "I want to commend Mal Moore for taking the initiative to push for this campaign that will help all the sports team at The University. His dedication to the entire University, to all the respective coaches and teams, and our alumni and fans has been unwavering.

"As a team we are ready to move forward and make The University of Alabama Athletics Complex a model that others will want to emulate."

Joe Kelley, former Alabama football quarterback and baseball pitcher, spoke for the committee. Kelley, who now lives in Nashville, said, "We all care deeply about The University of Alabama. We are all committed to achieving the goals...of building the finest athletics facilities anywhere in the country. These facilities will support our student-athletes in their academic and athletic endeavors. We believe excellence on the field and in the classroom are not mutually exclusive."

Kelley added the committee has a "love for this University and our firm commitment: we want our athletics program to be second to none in scholarship, victories, character, and integrity...We believe the best and brightest days for Alabama athletics are ahead of us."

Other members of the committee are Owen W. Aronov of Montgomery, former Tide player Randy Billingsley of Mobile, S.T. "Sonny" Bunn of Tuscaloosa, Terry Bunn of Tuscaloosa, Angus Cooper, II of Mobile, Gary Neill Drummond of Birmingham, Elise Durbin of Birmingham, Melissa Durbin of Birmingham, William E. Ezell of Fairhope, Wayne H. Gillis of Birmingham, John J. McMahon, Jr., of Birmingham, former Tider Robert W. "Bud" Moore of Catherine, former Bama player Ozzie Newsome of Baltimore, Maryland, Thomas L. Patterson of Birmingham, Johnny Plott of Tuscaloosa, Farid Rafiee of Huntsville, Ambassador Joseph M. Rodgers of Nashville, Richard Scrushy of Birmingham, Britt Sexton of Decatur, former Alabama quarterback Bart Starr of Birmingham, Ted Taylor of Prattville, Michael D. Thompson of Birmingham, Stanley Verciglio of Birmingham, Duncan Williams of Memphis, and James W. Wilson, III of Montgomery.


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