The noise at McLane Stadium might not rival an erupting volcano, an earthquake or a Led Zeppelin concert circa 1975.
But the decibel level will be extremely high when 45,000 fans start screaming and cheering at No. 10 Baylor’s debut against SMU in the new $266 million stadium Sunday night.
“It’s going to be loud, maybe three or four times louder than Floyd Casey,” Baylor senior receiver Levi Norwood said. “It’s awesome. The stadium has exceeded my expectations and hopefully the crowd does, too.”
McLane Stadium was built for volume. It has a state of the art sound system that will keep fans entertained with music and sounds from replays of the action on the field.
But the most noise will be generated by the fans responding to Baylor’s performance. If Baylor’s offense is as productive as last year’s unit that cranked out a nation’s best 52.4 points per game, they’ll have plenty to get excited about.
The stadium was built to contain noise with the vertical rise of the seats and a canopy encircling the upper deck.
“The stadium doesn’t go out as much as some of the other stadiums in the Big 12,” Baylor offensive tackle Troy Baker said. “It goes up. Everybody’s going to be amped up. It’s going to be huge, the first game in the new stadium.”
SMU coach June Jones, formerly the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, believes McLane Stadium will amplify crowd noise much like NFL stadiums.
“I think the excitement will probably be eight more decibels with the way the stadium was built,” Jones said. “I know NFL stadiums have a similar type of roofing and cover, and they amplify sound. We’re preparing for a loud crowd.”
As Baylor officials began meeting with Populous stadium architects, there was much discussion about how to magnify sound. While the canopy above the upper deck is designed to provide shade in the Texas heat, it also holds noise inside the stadium.
“We talked about how a canopy can contain noise and amplify the sound back to the field,” Baylor deputy athletic director Todd Patulski said. “It has an obvious benefit besides providing shade. A 45,000-seat stadium sounds like a 65,000-seat stadium.”
McLane Stadium seats are closer to the field than at many college stadiums, which should create an even greater home-field advantage. Baylor officials hope visiting teams will feel hemmed in by the crowd much like at a basketball arena.
“Seating is pulled forward and is close to the field which will create a louder environment for the players,” Patulski said. “When the crowd gets rowdy on third-and-4, I imagine SMU is going to hear it.”
Pairing students, band
The Baylor Golden Wave Band and Baylor Line student section are also seated near each other on field level to create more noise.
“We really tried to connect the band to the Baylor Line and the student section so they play off each other,” Patulski said. “The band prompts things, and can be pretty loud being right on field level.”
Much thought was also put into the sound system that accompanies the massive video board in the south end zone. Baylor officials wanted to make sure the sound is distributed equally all over the stadium.
“We underestimate the value of the sound of the game compared to the video board,” Patulski said. “A sound system can pull people into the game. We talked about having the sound equally distributed. If you’re in section 101, it should be about the same as section 115. With a giant TV screen and linear sound, it can feel like a gigantic home entertainment system.”
For a senior like Baker who grew up watching Baylor football games and graduated from Connally High School, the thought of playing before sellout crowds every game at a new on-campus stadium is a revelation.
He remembers the bad times when the cellar dwelling Bears had difficulty filling half the seats at Floyd Casey Stadium. Baker was at the 1999 game when UNLV returned a Baylor fumble 100 yards in the final seconds to pull off a stunning 27-24 win.
A hushed silence fell over Floyd Casey Stadium as the play unfolded.
“I didn’t go to a game here for a while after that,” Baker said. “I went to high school games at Floyd Casey that had more people than Baylor games. There were empty seats everywhere, and now it’s sold out. It’s been unheard of for the last 30 or 40 years for Baylor.”
As Baylor coach Art Briles’ teams started producing winning seasons in 2010, the crowds have grown larger. Last year, the Bears set a school record by averaging 45,948 fans in their seven games at Floyd Casey Stadium. A single-game record 51,728 fans braved 24-degree weather to watch Baylor’s 30-10 win over Texas last December to clinch its first Big 12 championship.
The Bears went 19-1 in their final three seasons at Floyd Casey Stadium, and Briles said it’s the responsibility of the team to take advantage of the new stadium and keep building on that home-field advantage.
“Without a doubt, I think it’s going to be phenomenal,” Briles said. “It’s going to be hard for anybody in the United States of America to mimic what we’ve got going on when you talk about the whole atmosphere of the stadium with the river, with the bridge and I-35, and the campus in the background and with the lagoon and the boat slips.
“So they’ve given us the best,” Briles said. “Now we need to take full advantage and responsibility of it. We’ve been good at home, and now our goal, motto and drive is to take what we did at Floyd Casey and carry it to the new stadium and keep the domination factor.”
With all six home games expected to be sold out this season, the Baylor players have been getting requests from friends and family for tickets. But seats are hard to find.
“People are calling me to see where they can buy tickets because they’re sold out,” Baylor safety Orion Stewart said. “It’s great, it’s changed around a lot. That stadium is awesome. I tell people all the time, I envisioned it, but it’s nothing like I imagined.”
The Baylor players got a taste of what the stadium offers with two recent intrasquad scrimmages that were closed to the public. But they can’t wait to experience their first game at McLane Stadium before 45,000 highly charged fans.
“Growing up at Penn State and going to their games, I thought there was nothing that could be cooler,” Norwood said. “This stadium might not be as big as those stadiums, but it’s the coolest stadium I’ve been to.”
And perhaps one of the loudest.
Unveiling RG3 statue
The Robert Griffin III statue will be unveiled at 3:15 p.m. Sunday at the plaza outside of the south end zone at McLane Stadium.
Griffin, who won the 2011 Heisman Trophy as a Baylor junior, will be on hand for the ceremony. Griffin is beginning his third year as quarterback of the Washington Redskins.