Kyle Field receives upgrades

TV cameramen and newspaper photographers have complained about the lighting at Kyle Field for years. This year, Texas A&M is opening up the check book in order to fix the lights and make other upgrades to the campus landmark.

The new basketball practice facility may be the biggest construction project in Aggieland this summer, but it's not the only major Texas A&M athletic facility receiving upgrades. After hearing more complaints about the lighting levels from photographers last year, A&M is replacing all of the lights at Kyle Field for the first time in 27 years.

"ESPN, ABC, a lot of the photographers, individual television reporters and our in town people who travel to other places have noticed a continual downgrading of the light levels at Kyle Field," said Associate Athletic Director for Facilities Kevin Hurley. "We've tried to re-angle them, we've tried to clean them, we've tried to do everything we could, but it finally came down to the fact that the lights are 27 years old."

Thanks to a custom lighting plan to eliminate dark spots, Hurley said that fans will see a drastic difference in lighting levels for both television and still photography.

The new lights will also be energy efficient and could save the athletic department several thousand dollars a year, but the upgrade hasn't come with complications.

"Those lights haven't been touched in 27 years," Hurley said. "You've got some fixtures up there that are literally rusted to the bolt that have to cut or break off. It's just as much a safety factor as it is getting new lights. But (While we're up there) we're going to add new wiring, new controls, new airplane lights, so we can get to a point where we can manage them. Before, it was just a matter or putting a band aid on it."

In addition to new lights, Kyle Field and the practice fields are also getting new turf, which is usually done every six to eight years with the current number of football games and practices.

"We re-sod every several years," Hurley said. "Sometimes it's accelerated, sometimes it's held off, depending on the quality of the grass. We didn't have the same quality of grass this time around so it accelerated the replacement a little earlier than we wanted."

With the indoor facility coming in this year, it will cut down on some of the usage which will help extend the life of the turf, depending on rain, heat and disease.

The total cost of this year's upgrades will be between $400,000 and $500,000.

Once the indoor facility is complete, the west side of Kyle Field is high on Bill Byrne's priority list for future renovations to the elevators, concourse, concession stands and restrooms.

"Like most people on campus, we're trying to catch up from years and year and years of not putting money away for deferred maintenance and not changing things when we should have put the money into it. We've tried to get 25 years out of an air conditioning unit when we should have gotten 20 years out of. We've got a deteriorating infrastructure and we need to constantly be aware of that through preventative maintenance, ongoing maintenance, and through replacement. We've got to get caught up."

The new basketball facility at Reed Arena is also scheduled to begin construction any day now, with an opening date set for the fall of 2008.

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