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September 21, 2012
The excitement of the past year's athletic success continues to infuse both the campus and greater Waco. As construction begins on the new Baylor Stadium and community complex along Interstate 35 and the Brazos River, Bears fans wait with anticipation for the first on-campus game in 2014.
Preparatory site work for the $250 million complex, the largest in Baylor history, began in late summer. Construction of the complex will occur at the same time as much-needed improvements to I-35, including two additional bridges alongside the primary I-35 bridges over the Brazos River.
The stadium complex and the I-35 improvements are expected to be catalysts to spur economic development and growth along Waco's Brazos River corridor.
State and local leaders broke ground for the I-35 highway improvements in early July. At the groundbreaking, leaders expressed a goal to have the improvements completed in time for Baylor's first football game in the new complex in 2014. The bridges and improved frontage roads are part of $4 billion in planned improvements for I-35, including several sections within the Waco district.
The Baylor Regents' approval for the stadium project followed the announcement of several major philanthropic gifts and the Waco City Council's approval to invest Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Zone funds for the complex. The $35 million in TIF funding, which is generated through tax revenue from the downtown and riverfront zones for the purpose of reinvesting in development in those same zones, will support infrastructure work (moving sewer and power lines, establishing a dock and constructing the pedestrian bridge).
Since March, the University has announced three major gifts for the stadium from prominent alumni. Elizabeth and Drayton (BBA '58) McLane Jr. and their family stepped forward with the first contribution, a naming rights gift which is the largest capital gift in University history. The McLanes selected the name Baylor Stadium for the complex. Sheridan and John Eddie (BBA '76, JD '78) Williams Jr. and Sheila and Walter (BBA '59, JD '65) Umphrey also provided significant gifts. Williams Field at Baylor Stadium and Umphrey Pedestrian Bridge will bear tribute to their leadership in the project.
The philanthropic gifts along with the TIF funding provided the momentum for construction to begin in August with an anticipated completion date of fall 2014.
"We have 24 months to complete the project," said Brain Nicholson, associate vice president of facility, planning and construction. "That means we have to work at a fast pace and think strategically about each phase of the building process, while at the same time involving key groups that will be impacted by the stadium."
"While we have already begun site work on the stadium, we are still finalizing design specifics of the facility," Nicholson said. "Once designs are completed, we will be better able to communicate the campus impact and involve the campus community. We are currently working with the City of Waco and TxDOT and intend to engage other groups as the construction progresses."
As the academic year continues, faculty and staff may expect to see continued groundwork, particularly regarding utilities and highway construction. By spring, structure work could be appearing. By June 2013, construction of the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Bridge over the Brazos River will begin. Updates on stadium progress will be posted periodically on the faculty/staff web page at baylor.edu/facultystaff and on Baylor-Stadium.com.