In the latest salvo in the ongoing litigation between Baylor University and the Baylor Alumni Association, BAA officials released documents Tuesday that they claim show Baylor officials were not honest about their decision to raze the BAA’s on-campus headquarters.
Both sides have received numerous documents, emails, records, drawings and other material during the discovery process as the parties head toward a March 28 trial setting in Waco’s 74th State District Court.
During the past months, the BAA has released publicly some of the materials Baylor provided to them, including emails from top-ranking Baylor administrators or board members who have said they hate the BAA, can’t wait to tear down the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center and “put the BAA out of business.”
A drawing released Tuesday shows that an initial rendering from Baylor’s architect Populous did not include the demolition of the alumni headquarters in its proposal of the pedestrian footbridge linking the campus to the new McLane Stadium, BAA officials said.
“It is clear from the naked eye and just a bit of common sense that the McLane Stadium project did not require demolition of Hughes-Dillard, and these documents eliminate any doubt,” BAA President Tom Nesbitt said.
Steve McConnico, one of Baylor’s attorneys in the lawsuits, said he is disappointed by the BAA web proclamations, adding that BAA officials are “just picking and choosing little bits of evidence” and ignoring other facts, including sworn court testimony, in an effort to make their case.
BAA officials cite letters to “Baylor Nation” from Baylor President Ken Starr in 2013 that say the stadium project would require Hughes-Dillard to be demolished and that Populous “has been insistent” that the stadium needed a “grand pathway” and that circumventing the alumni center was not a functional plan to accommodate the large crowds walking to the games.
In a Tribune-Herald guest column, also cited in the BAA’s most-recent web posting, Baylor regent emeritus Drayton McLane wrote in July 2013 that the “only option available” to Baylor to connect the stadium and campus was to go through the site of the alumni center.
Baylor began tearing down the building in late July 2013.
But BAA officials say evidence obtained during the protracted legal battle shows that original plans from Populous in October 2011 showed the footbridge landing in its current location, but with foot traffic flowing behind and east of the Mayborn Museum.
The plan shows the Hughes-Dillard unaffected by the Brazos River bridge.
A week later, Populous landscape architect Kobi Bradley sent color renderings to Baylor in preparation for the Nov. 3, 2011, Baylor board meeting. Hughes-Dillard remains unaffected, BAA officials contend.
But three hours later, according to documents obtained by the BAA, Bradley sends Baylor construction manager Brian Nicholson different plans in which the Hughes-Dillard building is demolished to provide “a new open space” — not a plaza or a grand entrance that Baylor officials said was why the alumni center needed to be razed.
Bradley asks Nicholson in an email to “clarify my thinking for me.” He asks Nicholson, “Do you want me to keep some parking in the area shown or nuke the lot that’s there?”
“Tellingly,” Nesbitt writes to Baylor alumni on the BAA web site, “the new drawing, showing Hughes-Dillard being razed, still shows the crosswalks across University Parks in front of the Mayborn, not in front of Hughes-Dillard. Does it make sense for Populous to be asking Baylor whether Baylor wants to ‘nuke’ the parking lot behind Hughes-Dillard if Populous’ intent was to create on the Hughes-Dillard site a plaza and grand pathway, as Baylor has long contended?”
Nesbitt notes that the drawing first showing the alumni headquarters being razed does not change the path of the foot traffic from Bradley’s earlier renderings, in which the building was to have remained standing.
McConnico, Baylor’s attorney, said Populous created many drawings that included other options and locations for the bridge.
“At the end of the day, Populous primary architect Earl Santee, one of the foremost stadium architects in the world, said the bridge needed to go where it was placed,” McConnico said. “That’s why you hire these guys, to make these kinds of decisions. But the BAA has left all this out of the equation.”
Before the stadium was built, McLane asked if the Hughes-Dillard building needed to be demolished. He was told it must be razed to place the bridge in the best spot, McConnico said.
“He was dead right, too, because two football seasons later, that bridge and its location have worked as a great entry into McLane Stadium and has been a beautiful thing for Baylor,” McConnico said.
Baylor sued the BAA in June 2014, alleging the association is improperly using Baylor’s name and licensed trademarks. The university moved to sever licensing agreements with the BAA in December 2013 following failed attempts to merge the alumni association with Baylor’s own in-house alumni network.
The university is seeking a judgment that the BAA be terminated or re-formed and limited to helping students with financial aid.
The BAA filed a countersuit, claiming Baylor breached its contract with the association and improperly tore down its campus headquarters.