Mounting excitement for Baylor University’s inaugural football season at McLane Stadium has spurred rapid interest in booking the facility for private events.
Nonprofit groups like Mission Waco and Avance will hold fundraising events and awards galas at the facility’s private clubhouse. Local businesses and companies throughout Central Texas are inquiring about renting rooms for conferences.
And brides are looking forward to celebrating spring nuptials in the Baylor Club’s grand ballroom, complete with enchanting views of the football field, the Brazos River and the campus.
“We still don’t have the opportunity to literally show people the space, so they’re kind of booking just based on the picture that we’re giving them in their head,” said Brandon Millares, general manager with Club Corp., which manages the stadium’s private Baylor Club.
Casey Hooper, private events director for the Baylor Club, said 16 events have been booked so far for the fall and early part of 2015.
The group also is in talks with other organizations in town that are interested in holding events at the stadium, such as Waco City Council and Mosaic, a treatment center for people with intellectual disabilities.
“A lot of people are obviously trusting that our space will be the best, which we think it will with the views,” Hooper said. “We’ve seen some corporations, too, that maybe part of their management is in Dallas and part in Austin, and we’re that perfect middle point for them to get together for that daylong meeting.”
The Baylor Club includes 10 suites spread over three levels, such as the ballroom, which has 35-foot-tall ceilings and can accommodate up to 450 guests for a seated dinner.
The other suites range in capacity from 25 to 250 people and will feature amenities like tile and wood floors, multiple flat-screen TVs, state-of-the-art sound systems and projector screens that drop from the ceiling.
The club features an upscale bar and also has its own executive chef for events and daily meals service to club members. Millares said the club already has sold 375 memberships, with 175 purchased by Baylor faculty and staff and the rest secured by Waco residents and alumni throughout the state.
Memberships range in price from $25 to $120 per month, depending on the benefits level.
“It’s the Baylor Club, so it’s obviously going to be an everyday club, but in addition to that it’s really going to become like a conference center,” Millares said. “It’s a full-service operation. A lot of places in town, you rent the room, then you’ve got to find a caterer, then you have to order the tables and rent the chairs. Literally, this is a one-stop shop.”
Club Corp. invested about $2.4 million to deck out the club, on top of a $1.2 million match from Baylor. Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr will have a president’s suite that can accommodate up to 150 guests on game day and other events, and the university is planning other campus functions at the club, including a Board of Regents meeting and faculty breakfasts and luncheons, Millares said.
The Baylor Club suites will be available to ticketholders in designated club-level seating on game days, while club members would be able to attend a tailgating party at Knox Hall in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum, located on the opposite bank of the Brazos River.
SMG, the firm hired to manage bookings at the stadium year-round, has had success scheduling high school football games at the stadium.
A Friday night matchup between Cedar Park and Aledo will be the first official game at the stadium Aug. 29, ahead of the Bears’ season opener against Southern Methodist University on Aug. 31.
DeSoto takes on Cibolo Steele on Sept. 18, and a third high school contest at the stadium is also in the works, SMG General Manager Scott Neal said.
But the company is looking for new event opportunities that expand the appeal of the facility beyond sports. Communities in Schools will hold a fundraiser in which participants who raise at least $1,000 for the nonprofit group get to rappel off the side of the stadium from the press box, for example.
No other events have been confirmed so far for the full stadium grounds, Neal said.
“We’re trying to be more than just a venue for college football, we’re trying to serve as a destination,” Neal said. “We’re trying to make sure we do events that target not only the Waco community but also regionally.”
“Our goal is to make sure the lights are on as often as possible for some type of event.”
SMG, which manages more than 200 entertainment and sports venues across the globe, thinks it can use its national booking powers to steer concert tours to McLane Stadium.
SMG also hopes to make use of the full 93-acre stadium site, including the parking lot and the lagoon downstream from the stadium, for potential events.
For example, Neal said the company is open to partnering with local organizations to sponsor its own events at the stadium, such as a barbecue festival or chili cook-off on the grounds.
“Various events on a Saturday can bring people into McLane Stadium and show them that it is a destination in Central Texas,” Neal said. “Our job is to try to create a lifestyle event.”