By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (September 9, 2015) — Tarleton State unveiled pre-architectural conceptual renderings and announced its plans Thursday for its upcoming $24.2 million renovation of Memorial Stadium, home of both the Tarleton and Stephenville High School football programs.
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents appropriated funding for the renovations as part of a much larger $162.7 million capital improvement plan for Tarleton during their regular meeting last week.
“This is a great day for this community, and I know for me, it’s a day I’ve been waiting to host for some number of years from the first day I sat in Memorial Stadium looking into the west Texas sun,” said Tarleton President Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio to a round of applause from a standing-room only crowd packed into a conference room of the Tarleton Welcome Center.
The primary goals of the stadium, according to Dottavio and other Tarleton officials, is to transform the west side of the stadium (facing east) into the home side, construct a new press box with luxury suites, to lay a new synthetic turf playing surface and to construct a new track. There will also be new lighting, a new dressing room for Tarleton and a new dressing room for Stephenville High School that will be funded by Stephenville ISD.
Dottavio emphasized he does not believe construction will begin until after the 2016 football season.
“The relationship between the school district and Tarleton State University is very important. It’s important to everyone in this room and it’s extremely important to me,” said second-year Stephenville ISD Superintendent Matt Underwood. “These type of relationships when we talk about capital projects like funding, parking, traffic; these are all issues we share together.
“One of the first questions I was asked when I arrived to Stephenville was ‘When are you going to build a new football stadium specifically for SISD?’ Well, this solidifies the ongoing partnership between the university and the school district and will enhance it for both entities.”
While the project in its entirety will be carried out in multiple phases, Dottavio said plans call for expanding the capacity from 7,000 to more than 10,000, and Underwood said there are plans for interchangeable end zones so the turf there can reflect “Stephenville” and/or “Yellow Jackets” during their home contests.
Tarleton athletic director Lonn Reisman was emotional in discussing something he has wanted to see since coming to the university almost 29 years ago.
“Wow, 29 years we’ve been waiting for this. It’s been a long time coming,” said a choked up Reisman. “We are on the move and every direction is positive. Just look at the potential and the vision that continues to be brought forward by Dr. Dottavio.”
Reisman assured everyone that even if construction and football season overlap, games will be played in the stadium.
“Let me put everyone at ease. We’re going to play football at the stadium even during construction time,” said Reisman. “We will probably be a little inconvenienced, but we’ve all been waiting a long time to be inconvenienced.”
Sixth-year Tarleton head football coach Cary Fowler hopes to see his program lead all of NCAA Division II in attendance in the renovated facility. During 2014-15, Tarleton was in the top 10 in attendance in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.
“I feel like as we keep winning, we can have the best attendance in Division II football,” Fowler said. “This gives us the opportunity to do that.
“This isn’t just for the football program,” Fowler added. “This is for Tarleton State University.”
Stephenville Mayor Kenny Weldon said the City of Stephenville stands behind and supports the project wholeheartedly. He had this to say:
HISTORY OF MEMORIAL STADIUM
Memorial Stadium was the brainchild of the Tarleton Ex-Students Association, who in 1946 proposed a stadium be constructed in memory of 179 Tarleton students and faculty killed during World War II, according to a history of the stadium by Frank Chamberlain, taken largely from the writings of late Tarleton professor Chris Guthrie.
The stadium first opened in 1951 as an eight-acre complex with a scoreboard, game clock and ten rows of concrete bleachers. Equipment and dressing rooms were beneath the bleachers, and a cinder track encircled he field, according to the Chamberlain report.
The stadium was improved upon throughout the 50’s, and by 1957 the capacity reached approximately 6,000. Major renovations were done in the 1970’s, largely thanks to the Tarleton Alumni Association raising more than $475,000, most through private donations. The money afforded the stadium improved concrete bleachers with steel seats on the east side of the stadium with a new press box and restrooms build above these grandstands. A field house and concession stand were also constructed.
The Oscar H. Frazier Track, the school’s first all-weather running surface, was constructed by 1977, and in 1988 and 1989 the current field house was build immediately south of the stadium, including dressing rooms and sports medicine facilities. The old concession stand was remodeled, visitors bleachers were erected on the west side of the field and the track was widened and resurfaced.
For the history of Memorial Stadium from 1946 to 1999, CLICK HERE.
More recent renovations included the expansion of the visitors bleachers to bring the stadium capacity to 7,000, and the installation of the university’s first synthetic turf playing service in 2004.
Below are images from Tarleton showing Memorial Stadium in its current state.