A Woodway man hopes that a custom piece of artwork his relative created for Floyd Casey Stadium can find a new home as Baylor University transitions to its new on-campus football stadium.
Robert Blankenstein’s great-uncle, Richard, made the Baylor Bear mural that adorns the front of the stadium on Valley Mills Drive. Richard Blankenstein designed and built a rubber mold from scratch for the bear, depicted in a fighting pose on top of a hill, and filled it with plaster to make the mural.
It was brought to Waco from his farm in Peoria on the back of a wagon, then mounted onto a circular green-and-gold backdrop in time for the stadium’s opening in 1953.
“He was one of the only people doing plaster work in this area in Central Texas, so I’m sure that’s how he ended up doing this for Baylor,” Robert Blankenstein said.
Richard Blankenstein learned construction and plastering trades from his uncle, Ernest, a German immigrant who ran his own construction company in Temple.
Eventually, Richard Blankenstein started his own business building houses and making decorative plaster creations, such as fountains and landscaping fixtures or ornamental features on buildings.
“During the late 1940s, my father would go down and watch (Richard) and my grandfather, Paul Blankenstein, work together at Baylor in different buildings, like doing columns and intricate scrollwork at the (Armstrong) Browning Library,” Robert Blankenstein said.
Richard Blankenstein died in 1977 at age 90.
Baylor’s football program will relocate next season to the new on-campus McLane Stadium at Interstate 35 and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
The university has not made a decision on what to do with Floyd Casey, which still is being utilized for private events and by track-and-field athletes for training.
“I’m proud that Baylor is doing good now in football; we’re all proud of Baylor,” said Robert Blankenstein, who attended the university for one year but later earned a general studies degree from Mary Hardin-Baylor. “I am real sad that this is not going to be here anymore (at Floyd Casey).”
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said in an email that it has not been determined whether the mural can be removed intact from the stadium.
But if it can be salvaged, the university would like to repurpose it, either within McLane Stadium or some other building on campus.
The university already has started moving some items from the stadium, such as installing the video board at the baseball park and moving the bronze statue of legendary football coach Grant Teaff to storage until it is ultimately installed at McLane Stadium this fall.
Blankenstein said he would love to see his great-uncle’s work continue to be connected to the football program.
But in the event Baylor can’t find room for it, he has an alternative suggestion in mind.
“I’d love to see it move over to the new stadium, but if not, they can give it me,” Blankenstein said.