Stadium tour gives front-row seat to massive project

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Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 12:01 am | Updated: 12:28 pm, Mon Jun 2, 2014.

While the Baylor Bears rack up impressive statistics on the field, the builders of their new stadium are focused on one important number: 288. That’s how many days until tens of thousands of Baylor fans come streaming into their new riverfront stadium.

At a construction site tour led by Baylor University athletics officials Wednesday, project officials said they are on track to complete the $260 million stadium a couple of weeks before the opening game on Aug. 31, 2014.

Here’s what was gleaned from the tour:

RGIII statue

Baylor has commissioned an Arizona art studio to create a larger-than-life bronze statue of Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner who changed the way the world thought about Baylor football.

The statue will be part of a plaza commemorating Baylor athletics glories of the past.

Work nearly half done

Work on the stadium is estimated to be 46 percent done, which might not sound like much given the deadline approaching.

But work will accelerate after the beginning of the year, when interior spaces are “dried in,” or weatherproofed, officials said.

As of Wednesday, 80 percent of the precast concrete and 70 percent of the steel structure was in place. Work has begun on the shade canopy, and the stadium lighting is largely in place.

Down by the Brazos River, a barge-mounted crane was busy building bridge piers for the pedestrian bridge, which already has its abutments in place.

Construction officials say they have lost 20 days because of rain since the project started in July 2012, but since last October, crews have been working until 2 a.m. each day, seven days a week, to catch up.

“We’re right where we need to be,” said Jeff Horn, senior superintendent for Austin Flintco, the general contractor.

“(Rain days) do hurt you, but we just have to resequence and be as productive as we can.”

Fundraising success

Baylor has received $125 million in gifts and pledges, plus a $35 million commitment from the city of Waco. Another $100 million in athletics revenue is expected to fund the rest.

The fundraising success means less need for debt financing, said Brian Nicholson, Baylor’s associate vice president for facilities and operations.

“We’re above pace and on track,” Nicholson said. “But we’re not done. We always need more funds.”

Baylor also is raising money for an alumni events annex set to open in 2015 at a cost of up to $20 million.

Also, the school is building a $14 million track complex expected to be complete soon after the football stadium.

A labor-intensive job

The stadium project employs 450 to 500 workers a day and has employed about 1,900 in the past 16 months. By next summer, there will be 600 to 700 workers on-site, working 24 hours a day.

About 45 percent of the workers are being hired locally, giving a boost to the local economy, project officials said.

Boating options

The original vision of a boat-friendly stadium is starting to take shape as two design-build firms work on plans for a docking area around the lagoon next to the stadium.

“Our goal is to have 20 to 30 boat slips the first year, but you build on tradition,” Nicholson said. “If we get 20 or 30 and it goes really well, we’ll add more the next year.”

Sellouts predicted

Count deputy athletic director Todd Patulski among those impressed with the hulking, 10-story structure, which is now visible for miles.

“You can look at renderings all day long, but when you see how massive the stadium is, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed and very impressed,” he said. “But it’s really coming out the way we planned and designed.”

Timing for the 45,000-seat stadium couldn’t have been better, Patulski said.

“We hope to sell out every game,” he said. “It needs to be the hottest ticket in college football, and we expect it will be, based on the success of the program and the direction Coach Briles has had and our fans, the way they’ve been coming out.”

 
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