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SIGNS OF PROGRESS: Stadium 21% Complete, Fundraising Tops $100 Million

May 8, 2013

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

Even as Baylor Stadium continues to rise above the Brazos River, already beginning to dominate the Waco skyline, Jeff Horn's not about to admit his construction crew is ahead of schedule.

"I'm never happy where we are," said Horn, Senior Superintendent for Austin-Flintco and site manager for the $250 million riverfront stadium that is being built on a 93-acre site just east of Interstate-35 and just on the north side of the Brazos. "We always want to be faster than what we're doing. . . . It's a tight schedule, it's tough, but it's what we signed up for."

With a little over 15 months away from the projected Aug. 30, 2014 football season opener against SMU, Baylor University paused on Tuesday to celebrate significant progress in both fundraising - topping the $100 million in private fundraising - and construction of the Bears' new on-campus stadium.

"Over the course of the past year, Baylor Nation has risen up in record numbers and with unparalleled generosity," Baylor President Ken Starr told the crowd gathered for Tuesday's announcement, "and today we are privileged to announce that we have reached the $100 million milestone in private support for Baylor Stadium."

Baylor Director of Athletics Ian McCaw said the lead gifts from Drayton McLane and his family, John Eddie and Sheridan Williams and Sheila and Walter Umphrey "created the momentum for the (fundraising) campaign and moved this project forward."

"Drayton challenged us and said, 'You can do this,''' said Starr, who announced two weeks earlier that the University had successfully raised more than $100 million through the President's Scholarship Initiative. "Drayton said, we'll make this gift, but what you're going to find is that Baylor Nation is going to come alongside. . . . Not one dollar of tuition, not one dollar of our student dollars is going to these great enterprises (the stadium and scholarship initiative). This is a reason to be thankful, a reason to celebrate, and I congratulate each of you and everybody in Baylor Nation for a great, great effort that continues."

Building on the momentum and excitement of the new stadium, McCaw said the six Founders Suites, 39 premium suites and 79 loge boxes have all sold out, "and we have a waiting list." Additionally, there were over 1,400 bricks sold in the first phase of the Stadium Bricks campaign, "and we have sold more than 1,500 brand new ticket sales; and that's for the 2013 season, before we move into the stadium," he said.

"We're just so proud that this project has been a success from every possible angle."

Although the leadership of Starr and McCaw and lead gifts of the McLane, Williams and Umphrey have helped keep the project moving forward, McCaw said "it would not be happening if (head football coach Art Briles) did not come to Baylor University and build a winning football program."

"Coach Briles and his staff have done a remarkable job with Baylor football. They've put a tremendous product on the field. They've recruited at a very high level . . . put together back-to-back top-25 national recruiting classes. And that's working with Floyd Casey Stadium. There is no telling what's going to happen once they move into Baylor Stadium in 2014."

Briles said he "didn't know enough about everything that was going on to realize how important it was to have a stadium on campus." But once he saw that it was a "need, not a want," he knew that the new stadium "is something that's got to happen."

"When we open up over there, people are going to be saying, 'Why didn't we do it in 1984?''' said Briles, who has led the Bears to three consecutive bowl games and back-to-back bowl victories, "because it's going to be the greatest thing that's ever happened to this university.

"Our people were bold enough, had enough vision to say, 'Let's put a beautiful stadium right there on I-35 and the Brazos River.' Who else can do that? I'm looking around, and I can't find anybody. The list is pretty short."

The other part of Tuesday's announcement was construction updates from Horn, Senior Project Manager Jim Heley from Austin-Flintco, Deputy Athletics Director Todd Patulski and Brian Nicholson, associate vice president for facility planning and construction.

"It's really getting to the point now where you guys can see the contruction going up and see a lot more of the surface improvement," said Hely, who gave a site tour to media and Baylor officials on Tuesday.

One of the biggest projects was bringing in 22,000 truckloads of dirt to elevate the grade by as much as 10 feet in some areas to avoid digging down to the water level and "also get it out of the 100-year flood plain," Horn said.

"All the underground work that we're putting in right now, that work would all be in water if we were down at that elevation," he said, "because some of our work is at six feet (below ground). So bringing it up like we did, we don't have the water issue."

They have also pumped 33 million gallons of water out of a lagoon that is east of the stadium and just north of a planned on-site tailgating area that will increase the total spaces from 300 at Floyd Casey Stadium to an estimated 475 spaces at Baylor Stadium.

"One of the unique things on the site itself that's different is just dealing with the lagoon, which you typically don't deal with on a job site; overhead power lines, existing sanitary lines that we did up front to get ready to build the stadium," Horn said.

As of Tuesday, when concrete was poured for the 300th column in the 860,000-square-foot stadium, the crew had drilled 1,129 piles, each one between 45-50 feet deep; poured 8,000 cubic yards of concrete; installed five miles of underground piping; and logged 155,000 combined work hours without any lost-time accidents.

"There is still a lot of work to be done," Nicholson said, "but we have a great start to the project. And if you're counting, we have 479 days till kickoff."

With construction starting on the west side (closest to I-35), half of the main concourse level has been completed. "It happens pretty quickly," Horn said. "In two weeks, we'll be around on the (east) side, substantially. We'll reach the main concourse elevated deck in two weeks."

By the end of May or first of June, Nicholson said, the pre-casts "will start to arrive that make up the seating bowl," and the structure steel for the west side will start to be installed. Horn said the steel and pre-casts "will take us to the end of the year . . . and that basically gets our big components of the structure in place. And then after that, the first of the year till we open, is all the finish work."

The construction crew, which currently numbers 250 and will reach 600 at its peak, is working six-day weeks and up to 18 hours a day to get the project done.

"If they feel good, then we feel good," Patulski said. "We like everything that's being done. Populous (the architectural firm) is obviously hustling to stay ahead as much as possible, and Austin-Flintco has been phenomenal to work with. When they're working six days a week, you've got a lot of confidence that they're going to get it done."

From his office at the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center, McCaw gets a glimpse of the construction on a daily basis. But what he's hearing from fans is how, "If you don't see it for a week, it's amazing to see the progress that happens at the stadium. The project is just moving so quickly."

"Even when you're in it on a consistent basis, and you know what's going on behind the scenes, when you see that elevation, you get excited," Patulski said.

"Every time we see another 700 square yards of concrete poured, it's exciting. As we see this first concourse level finish out, it's cause for a little celebration."

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