Byrne discusses facilities - PART I

Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp sits down in an exclusive interview with Texas A&M Director of Athletics Bill Byrne to discuss facility upgrades at Kyle Field and more.

Over the last 10 years, coaches and players have come and gone. But one constant surrounding Texas A&M athletics has been construction. Over the last decade, The Zone was added to the north endzone of Kyle Field, the Aggie Soccer Stadium has been expanded and a press box added, indoor batting cages were built at Olsen Field, new locker rooms and offices were built for Olympic sports and the Bright Complex—the crown jewel of A&M sports facilities at the moment—has provided a state-of-the-art academic center to go along with football locker rooms, lounges and offices.

Last summer, the football team moved into its new indoor practice facility in time for two-a-days and by November, the nationally ranked Aggie track and field teams will be able to work out in new McFerrin Indoor Track facility. By the end of the year, the A&M basketball teams will move into the new Cox-McFerrin Center at Reed Arena—the largest college basketball practice facility in the nation.

Once those two facilities are finished, A&M Director of Athletics Bill Byrne hopes to add some sort of club seating in the south endzone of Kyle Field and complete an overhaul of the Anderson track facility.

"Those two things have to happen," Byrne said.

In addition to generating critical revenue, the proposed club, which Byrne says is still in the very initial planning stage, would help fund renovations to the west side of Kyle Field, which is in dire need of renovations that could top $100 million according to Byrne.

"We're using circuit breakers from 1929—literally," Byrne said. "We had an issue to start the season last year where Pizza Hut put turbo chargers in their pizza ovens. Two hours before kick-off everything went dark when they kicked the pizza ovens on and it broke every circuit breaker that we had, and burned computers out. We had fans, because Montana State ran wild on us that day, saying that we were hiding stats on the ribbon boards, but we couldn't put stats up because we burned up the computers that (operated the stats)."

But that wasn't the first time the circuit breakers were destroyed. Last summer when Director of Facilities Billy Pickard tried to install a window air conditioning unit to help cool the women's restroom at Kyle Field, it overloaded the electrical system as well.

"That's how close we are to using the maximum amount of electricity in that building," Byrne said. "We have real significant issues there."

When television trucks roll into town to broadcast football games from Kyle Field, they're forced to bring their own generators to operate their equipment. When asked if that was normal for other schools around the nation, Byrne said, "no."

But electrical issues aren't the only thing that needs to be repaired around Kyle Field. There are structural issues, elevators that still need to be replaced with much more specialized elevators that can handle the sporadic heavy use on game days and changes that need to be made to improve the movement of people around Kyle Field on game day to comply with fire code issues.

"We've spent millions of dollars on Kyle since we've been here and it doesn't look a bit different, but it's a safer structure. We replaced some (elevators) a couple of years ago and we'll replace the rest of the elevators this year."

The $100 million may sound high to many, but he added that he will not know the details for another two months or so as plans continue to move forward.

"It could easily be ($100 million) and it may be more than that," Byrne said. "You look at what Texas is spending on their north endzone structure—it's $160 million," Byrn said. "All I know is the costs will continue to go up. We've watched the cost of petroleum products go up exponentially and much of what you do when you build facilities is you use a whole bunch of petroleum products and equipment that use diesel fuel."

While Byrne may not know the final price tag, he does know that he needs money—and lots of it—to make the necessary changes, which is why he's proposing other revenue-generating ideas like the new club at Kyle Field rather than begin another capital campaign with the 12th Man Foundation.

"We've about worn the Aggies out with those," he said. "If you include The Zone, we're well over $120 million in gifts we've generated and the A&M Foundation is 10 times that. What we're going to try to do is build business models where the facilities construction will pay for itself and also generate some cash flow."

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