The knowledge that his great-uncle crafted the bear mural that adorned Floyd Casey Stadium made attending Baylor University football games all the more special for Robert Blankenstein.
But it turns out the piece Richard Blankenstein created hasn’t been seen in decades.
The original plaster bear mural Richard Blankenstein created in the mid-1950s for the stadium’s opening has been out of sight since about 1990.
That’s when skyboxes and the press box were added to the stadium during a renovation project.
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said university officials think the original, which could not be removed at the time of the construction work, is covered by an elevator shaft that accesses the box suites.
A duplicate of the mural was created and attached in the same area as the original. The existence of two murals was confirmed after a Tribune-Herald story last week about the project.
Robert Blankenstein said his family didn’t know that the original had been replaced. Still, he’s no less proud of the contribution his great-uncle made to the stadium.
“The Blankenstein family has left an impact on Waco and Baylor nation, and I’m glad and proud about that,” said Robert Blankenstein, who lives in Woodway.
“My great-uncle made that mold to begin with and this is a copy of it, so it’s still his work as far as I’m concerned.”
Richard Blankenstein owned a construction and plastering company and was contracted in 1953 to make the mural for the stadium. Originally named Baylor Stadium, the facility was renamed Floyd Casey Stadium in 1988.
He designed and built a rubber mold to make the project, which features a bear in a fighting pose atop a hill, and his brother, Paul, painted the mural.
Richard Blankenstein died in 1977 at age 90.
The second bear was created by Charlie Montgomery, owner of Custom Castings in Fort Worth.
He said he was contracted to reproduce the mural by Waco Construction Co., which was in charge of the stadium renovation.
“They were going to try to take it down, but they decided that if they tried to take it down they were going to tear it up,” Montgomery said. “So we (made) a plaster mold off of it and made the new one.”
Charlie Robelia of Charlie’s Plastering Co. in Woodway said he made the circular background that backs the bear and the rock base the bear stands on.
“We all donated our work, as I understand it,” Robelia said.
It’s not yet clear what will happen to the murals. Baylor’s new McLane Stadium will open for the 2014 football season, and the university hasn’t yet decided what to do with the Floyd Casey property.
Nick Joos, Baylor’s executive associate director of athletics, said the school is exploring what can be done with the murals.
Baylor already plans to incorporate some features at Floyd Casey into McLane Stadium, such as a bronze statue of legendary football coach Grant Teaff and the football turf.
Montgomery said depending on how the murals were attached, each structure may have to be cut out of the wall to remain intact.
Robert Blankenstein hopes both can be preserved so that he and the university will each have a keepsake.
“The original piece is the most valuable, but I’d sure like a copy as well,” Robert Blankenstein said. “I’d be tickled to death.”